By: Gavincia Clarke
(CHARLESTOWN, NEVIS)- Tuesday, April 23, 2013 was a sad day for the Thompson’s family of Brown Hill, Nevis who saw the alleged murderer of Chantelica Thompson walk out the Charlestown High Court a free man. This was after the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), failed to prove its case.
The case of the nineteen year old deceased who was brutally murdered began on Monday, April 22, 2013 with Acting DPP, Attorney Rhonda Nisbett- Browne leading the case for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Prosecution ended it case after the testimony of the clerk of the District ‘C’ Magistrate Court; Mr. Kirthly Morton who read the deposition of pathologist Dr. Stephen Jones who was unable to appear in court.
At that point counsel for the accused, Dr. Henry Browne stood before the Court and asked the permission of the court to enter no case to answer submissions outside of the presence of the jurors. His purpose of this was to address the Court on the fact that the DPP had failed to prove that his client was guilty of the crime. Dr. Browne also hoped to bring an end to the matter before it made its way before the jurors.
Dr. Browne based his submissions on the two elements in law ‘actus reus’ which is the actual act of committing a crime and ‘mens rea’ which is the intention or state of mind to have committed the act.
Browne was of the view that there was no evidence that Delvin Wilkerson had committed the crime. He was also of the view that the evidence was so dismantled by the cross examination to go before the jurors.
Dr. Browne told the Court that not one of the witnesses who gave evidence under oath pointed to the fact that the accused was the murderer of the victim. He felt that there was no evidence against the accused. Dr. Browne further stated that not even in its opening statements did the Prosecution make any claim that Wilkerson had committed the crime.
Dr. Browne asked the Judge to take the case away from the jurors and make a finding of ‘not guilty’.
To this Attorney Rhonda Nisbett- Browne rebutted and said that the case should go before the jury. According to Nisbett-Browne, this was a case that Wilkerson should answer to. She based her rebuttal on the evidence of Dr. Chandy Jacob who gave a time frame of two hours before his arrival on the scene that he believed the victim died.
Attorney Nisbett- Browne also used the evidence of the sister of the deceased who left the house of the crime at 8:30 a.m. and who said that Wilkerson was the only person present with Chantelica when she left home.
The evidence of Carla Hendrickson-Glasglow was also used. Hendrickson-Glasglow said that she saw the accused soon after the body of the victim was discovered, and the mannerisms of the accused appeared similar to what she had been accustomed to, despite the fact that he had just discovered his girl friend dead.
The DPP then admitted however that the case was based on circumstantial evidence.
His Lordship Justice John Benjamin then indicated that the court must follow the strict guidelines of the law. He stated that the Prosecution needed to prove its case without a reasonable doubt. He questioned the calculations of Dr. Jacobs as to how he was able to determine that the deceased had died two hours before his arrival. Justice Benjamin stated that the doctor was not questioned about the state of the body upon his arrival.
Justice Benjamin indicated that when a case is based on circumstantial evidence the Prosecution needed to be precise.
Dr. Browne then asked the question, ‘The DPP want this case to go before the jurors to speculate?’ According to Browne there was no forensic evidence. He questioned, ‘Whose knife was it? Whose vest was it?’ Dr. Browne stated that the police officers ‘haven’t begun to investigate the case yet’. He stated that he never saw anything like this before. He said all they did was ‘bring some dirty clothes to the court to spread germs’.
The Judge himself admitted that he too had difficulties with the case. He was of the view that he did not think the outcome would bring justice to the victim and the people of Nevis. According to him however, there was no evidence from anyone who pointed to the accused as having committed the act. Justice Benjamin mentioned the evidence of Dr. Stephen Jones who did not rule out that more than one perpetrator could have committed the crime.
All this argument took place outside of the presence of the jury. At that end of the argument however, the jury was asked to return to the courtroom to be addressed by Justice Benjamin.
Justice Benjamin said, ‘You may hope, you may wish and you may think in your mind he’s guilty but there is no guilt proven’. He continued, ‘this is a serious case but the investigations was very sloppy’. Justice Benjamin was of the view that there were too many open gaps in the investigation of the matter.
In conclusion, Justice Benjamin stated that his duties were to mete out justice the right way and not base on emotions. He said, ‘today it can be you or your children and you wouldn’t want the court to convict without any evidence’. His Lordship said that he did not think that it was right or just.
With that said the jurors had no other choice but to return a not guilty verdict. Soon after there was an outburst of emotions outside the court house from family members of the deceased as they watched Wilkerson pose for the media cameras with his lawyers outside the doors of the courthouse.
The aunt of the deceased said she blamed the police for poorly investigating the case and the Prosecution for poorly presenting the case and not bringing out the evidence in court.