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Murder pair’s appeal against conviction rejected by court

Happier times: Marcus Gibbings was remembered by his family as “young, bright and joyful” (Photograph courtesy of Gary Moreno)

The Court of Appeal has upheld the convictions of a half-brother and sister jailed for murder.

Katrina Burgess and Cleveland Rogers were both found guilty last year of the premeditated murder of Marcus Gibbings – Burgess’ ex-boyfriend.

An appeal was launched after a juror was said to have told Marc Daniels, a lawyer involved in the trial, that several members of the jury reversed their decisions to avoid the need to stay overnight in a hotel.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that the juror’s comments – and those of the jury foreman, who was interviewed about them – were inadmissible in a judgment delivered last Friday.

Sir Christopher Clarke, the appeal court president, said: “Evidence produced only after the verdict of the jury has been given is inherently susceptible to inaccurate or warped recollection, which may be fashioned by a particular juror’s viewpoint.

“Further, the process of determining what view, in the end, the jury actually took of the evidence is fraught with difficulty and may well have differed from juror to juror.

“This is exemplified in the present case by the acute differences between the evidence of Mr Daniels’ juror and the foreperson and by the multiple questions to which the foreperson’s testimony gives rise both for her and the other 11 members of the jury.”

Sir Christopher added: “If this type of evidence were admissible, it is difficult to see how one could stop short of questioning the entire jury in a process which would potentially involve raising with each of them any alternative versions of events given by any others.”

Mr Gibbings was found dead in a pool of blood in an apartment on Derwent Lane, Devonshire, on October 26, 2006.

The court heard he had shared the apartment with Burgess until weeks before the murder but was in the process of moving out.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had suffered multiple stab wounds including one to his face and two to his chest, one of which hit his heart.

Prosecutors at the pair’s Supreme Court trial alleged that Burgess had paid Rogers $5,000 to kill Mr Gibbings after he cheated on her and ended their relationship.

The trial heard evidence from two witnesses – both former girlfriends of Rogers – who testified that he had confessed to the murder.

One said Rogers had told her he had waited behind a couch and ambushed Mr Gibbings when he walked into the apartment.

Neither told police about the confessions until 2018 when Rogers was behind bars for an unrelated conviction for unlawful carnal knowledge of a 13-year-old girl.

The Supreme Court jury found Rogers and Burgess guilty of premeditated murder after five hours of deliberation and they were sentenced to serve at least 25 years in jail.

Rogers and Burgess argued during the appeal that the jury had been rushed.

They also claimed that the cases should have been tried separately because the “confession evidence” against Rogers would taint the case against Burgess.

Justice of Appeal Maurice Kay, however, said in the judgment that the decision of Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons to refuse separate trials was “unimpeachable”.

He said: “If Rogers had stood trial first and had been convicted, the prosecution could and would have adduced his conviction – but not the fact or details of his confessions – in the subsequent trial of Burgess.

“The second jury would have known that Burgess’s half sibling was the murderer of her estranged partner, who, on the evidence admissible against Burgess, if accepted by the jury, had lured him to the apartment.

“It is true that the second jury would not discover that Rogers’ confessions included an account of being paid by Burgess to carry out the murder, but the prejudice resulting from the hearing that in the context of the joint trial is to some extent lessened by what they would have undoubtedly have heard in a separate trial.”

The court also rejected claims of abuse of process linked to a failure by police to check the victim’s phone voicemail – which Burgess said supported her version of events – as part of their investigation.

Justice of Appeal Kay said that “ineptitude on behalf of the police” was clearly established in connection to the voicemail.

But he ruled it was not enough to make the proceedings unfair.

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