“Iris be strong nuh, man!” shouted Jonathan ‘Ninja Dan’ St. Rose. The plea was to his bawling sister outside the Castries courthouse late Monday evening, shortly after a mis-trial had been declared in the Crown’s case against St. Rose, Lynden Blasse and Mervyn Nelson, all charged with the February 14, 2009 murder of Dwayne ‘Chubby’ James. All three defendants have been on custodial remand for the past six years.The highly publicized case got underway in February this year. Representing the Crown was the Director of Public Prosecutions, Victoria Charles-Clarke. St. Rose was represented by Dasdean Green, Lynden Blasse by Leslie Mondesir and Mervyn Nelson by Andy George.
On Monday May 4, Justice Francis Cumberbatch gave his summary of the case, with specific instructions to a jury of seven women and five men. The judge reminded them that their decision in a case of murder or manslaughter had to be unanimous.
“You must disregard whatever you have heard or read about this case outside the courtroom,” he said. “You must not allow any of those voices or events to influence your decision. It is for the Director of Public Prosecutions to prove the guilt of the defendants who can sit and say absolutely nothing if they so decide.”
None of the defendants took the stand.
The judge reminded the jury that the Crown’s case was that Jonathan St. Rose had committed the act, along with the two others, after receiving a call from his child’s mother that she was being beaten by Dwayne James.
“That provides a motive as the number one defendant [St. Rose] acted together with the other defendants in a joint enterprise to inflict the bodily injuries that resulted in the death of the deceased,” said the judge. “The Crown must also prove to your satisfaction that the defendants acted together in joint enterprise to cause the death of the deceased by inflicting bodily injuries. If you find that they are all in it together in joint enterprise, they are all guilty.”
Pointedly, he added: “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 inflicting the wounds to the deceased. The Crown must, however, rely on circumstantial evidence.”
During the judge’s summation on Monday this week, he went over the testimonies of the witnesses during the three-month trial. They included Dwayne James’ mother, who had identified his body at the morgue, and Dr. Stephen King, who performed the autopsy. As earlier reported (STAR February 7, 2015), the court had also heard evidence from the first respondents at the scene the morning of February 14, as well as police officers from the Major Crimes Unit and a friend of the deceased who was with him at a bar on the night of February 13, 2009.
A written statement given by one Marvin Phulgence was also read in court. Phulgence, it was said, was in the area of Arundel Hill the morning of James’ death. The DPP’s office has, in the past year, placed several notices via the local media as to the whereabouts of Phulgence but to no avail. Phulgence, it had been reported, would have been a State witness.
The court had also heard evidence from the officers who had taken statements from St. Rose after he turned himself in at the Marchand Police Station on February 14, 2009. The officers who arrested Nelson and Blasse and had also taken as evidence items of clothing from all three men also testified. The items included pants, shirts and shoes. One pair in particular, green Adidas, became a focal point during the trial.
The court was told that hair samples were taken from the defendants who were also swabbed for subsequent DNA testing. Hair follicles found between rings of the deceased were also tested.
Providing the court with forensic evidence was Louis Murray, a former Consultant Forensic Scientist. He explained the chain of command when receiving evidence for testing. A UK-based DNA expert also testified. Some of the evidence retrieved from the defendants, including a green Adidas shoe, was sent to the UK for examination. At least two officers had testified that the shoe was taken from Nelson.
What was believed to be a spot of blood on the shoe was tested for DNA, with the expert revealing the results showed it “could” have been the DNA of the deceased. He said that without any DNA profiling, meaning the collection of DNA from family members whose DNA could be similar, there was no way to say a DNA match was one hundred percent.
The green Adidas shoe submitted in evidence as belonging to Marvyn Nelson was also submitted as the property of the deceased Dwayne James. The hair follicles found between James’ rings were found to be his own.
Jalene St. Omer, the mother of St. Rose’s son, was one of the last witnesses to take the stand last week. She recalled seeing James wearing a pair of green Adidas shoes. The DPP asked if she remembered the shoes because they were attractive. “Oh, no,” the witness replied, “they were quite ugly and didn’t match anything he was wearing.”
St. Omer recalled that on the night of February 13, 2009 she was in the company of St. Rose and other friends at Abyssinia House, Riverside Road, in Castries. Her parents own the bar. She recalled leaving the bar and taking a two-minute walk to the nearby Late Train where she was in the company of Dwayne James and other friends. They had a good time, she said, before returning to Abyssinia House from where St. Rose would transport her and her seven-year-old son to her home at Arundel Hill.
St. Omer testified she stayed on her balcony talking to St. Rose for a while before he left. “It was maybe less than two minutes afterward that I noticed Dwayne standing next to my home with a stone in his hand,” she recalled. She said an argument ensued before Dwayne punched her face. They struggled. She called St. Rose and he came back, parked his vehicle in the middle of the road, and started shouting at Dwayne James and asking him what the “f” he was doing. James ran down the hill, St. Omer testified, and she noticed the co-defendants on the road.
She said they never gave chase, even though St. Rose shouted “hold him, hold him.” She recalled speaking later that morning to an officer
who informed her about making a report. She was also later made aware that Dwayne James had been found dead on a balcony not far from where she lived.
In her cross-examination, the DPP suggested St. Omer had two men “chatting” her up on the night in question and that when St. Rose came to her assistance he was very angry. The DPP also questioned why the witness had left out of her signed statement to the police details she was now offering the court.
The court had also heard from character witnesses for the defendants.
Monday’s summation, which started at ten that morning, continued on until 12:35 pm, at which point the court took a break. Court resumed about 2 pm until 4:45, when the jury was sequestered as members deliberated. Shortly after 7 pm they sought clarification from the court on some aspects of the case before retiring again. Some 90 minutes later the jury announced it had failed to return a unanimous verdict. Shortly before 9 pm the judge declared a mis-trial.
A dejected and frail Magdalene James—mother of the deceased—hung her head in disbelief as other family members loudly expressed their disappointment with the verdict. The three accused will remain on remand at Bordelais.
The DPP has already ordered a retrial, scheduled to begin in June.