Were ‘Ninja” and co-defendants coerced into manslaughter deal?

Two weeks ago three men accused of murder pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. A source close to the case told the STAR that the three were led to believe that they would get off on time served, having been imprisoned now for more than seven years. “It was felt by those “advising” the accused that “precedence” had already been established given the recent case involving a French national,” said our source.

Eric Sommer, the Frenchman who was charged with causing the death of a local, was sentenced to the time served in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in March of this year. Sommer was charged with murder in the May 12, 2012 death of Lucas Francois at Pigeon Island after it was alleged that the Frenchman pushed Francois off a boat and refused to assist him when he asked for help.

He spent four years at Bordelais without a trial. The local justice system came under intense pressure and scrutiny by the French government for the national not having his day in court.

Two of the accused arriving in court.

Two of the accused arriving in court.

On March 17, 2016 Sommer was sentenced by Justice Margaret Price-Findlay after the prosecution accepted the lesser plea. He was immediately set free.

According to our source, Jonathan ‘Ninja Dan’ St. Rose and his co-defendants were convinced that accepting the lesser plea would set them free, having already been incarcerated for seven years. But that was not to be. On Thursday, St. Rose, along with Lynden Blasse and Marvyn Nelson, were handed a twelve-year sentence. The STAR has learnt that the judge will take into consideration the time they have served so far.

The three defendants had been on remand since February 2009 following a stabbing incident on Saturday February 14, 2009 which left Dwayne “Chubby” James dead.

The highly publicised case finally got underway on February 2, 2015. It ended on Monday May 4, 2015 after Justice Francis Cumberbatch gave his summary of the case, while offering guidelines and specific instructions to the jury comprising seven women and five men.

“You must disregard whatever you have heard or read about this case outside the courtroom; you must not allow any of those voices or events to influence your decision,” the judge had cautioned. “Your decision must be based on the evidence in this case which you consider to be reliable.”

The judge had warned that the jurors should not allow any sympathy for the defendants or victims or any of the witnesses to influence their decision.

“The burden of proof is on the Director of Public Prosecutions to prove the guilt of the defendants who could sit and say absolutely nothing if they so decide,” Cumberbatch had said.

“Members of the jury, there is no direct evidence in this case. By that I mean there were no witnesses who said that he or she witnessed the defendants stabbing the deceased. The Crown must, however, rely on circumstantial evidence,” Cumberbatch had added.

However the jury could not reach consensus resulting in a mistrial.

Then Director of Public Prosecutions Victoria Charles-Clarke indicated that she would be seeking a retrial but proceeded on pre-retirement leave before a date for a new trial was arrived at.

Our source is adamant that the manslaughter plea was a trade-off as persons jostled for the vacant post of DPP.

“It is really a sad day for our justice system when persons have to bargain their way out of prison if they are on remand for too long and trials take forever if and when they start. This cannot be justice,” said our source.

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