L-R: Rodney Simmonds Jr., Allen Baptiste and Yan Edwards, October 15, 2012
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
High Court Judge, Justice Albert Redhead has dismissed the jurors for the second time in three days, very early into the trial of the three men allegedly linked to the attempted murder on Melbourne Francis and the murder of Keri Harrigan last year.
Shortly after 2:30 pm today, October 17, Justice Redhead informed the jurors that they are dismissed because of a jury issue.
The jurors were empaneled this morning and had already heard evidence from one witness and another witness was in the process of giving evidence when the Judge held a meeting in Chambers with the legal teams.
Justice Redhead told the jurors that before they resumed the sitting this afternoon, they were made aware that one of the jurors is related to Mikhael Howe. On June 25 following a trial, Howe was found not guilty of the January 21, 2011 MoneyGram armed robbery.
Justice Redhead said that given that the matters are somewhat related, in the interest of justice and abundance of caution, he will have to discharge the jury.
The Judge also stated that he indicated to the jurors this morning that if any of them had any reason why they could not sit on the case they should relate it to the court. However, it was stated that the juror may not have known that the case had some level of relation.
The Judge said that the decision was his and he was not influenced.
Prosecutor Valston Graham then stated that given that this is the second attempt to get the trial underway, lawyers at the bar have agreed that the matter should be traversed to the February assizes.
On Monday, October 15, the Judge dismissed jurors after another issue was raised in relation to the jury.
Rodney Simmonds Jr. and Yan Edwards are charged with conspiracy to murder Francis on March 13, 2011 at Nottingham Estate, while Edwards and Allen Baptiste are charged with the murder of Harrigan, known as Hank, in the area of the Long Look Clinic on March 16, 2011.
During her opening address to the jury today, Senior Crown Counsel Christlyn Benjamin gave a preview of the crown's case in relation to both incidents.
In relation to the shooting of Francis, Benjamin said it is their case that sometime between January and March 2011, there was a plan between Simmonds Jr. and Edwards to take out or to kill Francis. Benjamin said the main players in the plan were Vaughn Cameron, Henito Penn, Edwards and Simmonds Jr.
At this point, she told the jurors that Cameron and Penn will be testifying on behalf of the crown during the trial.
She said they had planned to "deal with Francis" and according to the allegations, when Simmonds Jr. arrived in East End, he parked in the Fire Station area and called Cameron to pick him up.
Benjamin, who said there will also be telephoned evidence during the trial, said after Cameron picked up Simmonds Jr. on March 13, he took him to a place in Long Look called the 'Taz'. There, Simmonds Jr. and Edwards were seen speaking with each other. According to Benjamin, evidence will come to court that Edwards was seen dressed in dark clothing and also seen with a gun.
The Prosecutor urged the jurors, "...Listen keenly to Cameron and Penn's evidence; their evidence is crucial to the prosecution's case."
She said they will hear through evidence that Francis did visit 'Taz' on the same night of March 13. Francis then went up to Nottingham Estate by his friend and shortly after he left.
Benjamin said Edwards then sent Cameron to check around the area for Francis and Simmonds Jr. accompanied Cameron to look for Francis. However, before they could have returned, Edwards had already went ahead to do his own inquiry. Benjamin said Edwards went up to Nottingham Estate with a gun.
"Francis will tell you that when he came from his friend and got into his car driving off, he heard a loud explosion and thought it was his tyre blown out, but then he heard pow pow; it was a gun and he drove to the station."
She said when Francis was going down a hill, he saw a vehicle where Cameron was the driver.
Benjamin said Edwards told Cameron to pick him up on the hill and along with Simmonds Jr., Cameron went to pick up Edwards.
"When Edwards got into the vehicle, he will tell you what Edwards said; listen to them...You will hear that they went back to the Taz. Edwards and Simmonds Jr., they left and went together and Cameron and Penn's job was to take the gun and clothing Edwards took off to deal with them."
The court heard that as evidence unfolds during the trial, jurors will learn that shells of an AK47, a black hooded jacket and gloves were recovered from the scene where Francis was shot.
Benjamin said Francis received multiple gunshot wounds about his body.
Don't Worry, I Will Deal With Hank
Meanwhile, in relation to Harrigan's murder, Benjamin said it is the crown's case that Edwards and Baptiste, acting together, murdered Harrigan. "There was also a plan to take him out and in this case they did."
She said on the afternoon of March 15, Cameron, Edwards and Baptiste were at the Fire Station at East End where Edwards worked. She said Edwards then sent Cameron to collect his children while Baptiste and him remained to talk. However, Benjamin said when Cameron returned, he heard their conversation where Edwards told Baptiste, "I will let you deal with Hank [Keri] and Baptiste said, don't worry I will deal with him."
The Prosecutor said on March 16, Edwards and Baptiste were seen together in a vehicle where Edwards was the driver.
"Cameron will tell you Edwards called him and asked him if he had seen the girl, meaning Keri Harrigan," Benjamin told the jurors.
She said shortly after, Baptiste called Cameron, "but listen keenly to what Baptiste told him." She said within minutes of that phone call, Cameron heard gunshots in the area and when he looked he saw a man lying on the ground, which was Harrigan.
"You will hear a masked man was seen coming up behind Keri Harrigan with a gun and shooting him," Benjamin stated.
Meanwhile, in relation to the murder charge, Benjamin told the jurors that it does not mean that both Edwards and Baptiste held the gun and pulled the trigger together, since in law there is something called joint enterprise. She said it is the crown's case that they planned to kill Harrigan and they went ahead and did so.
Benjamin said it matters not who inflicted the fatal injury..."You will have to infer his intention from the circumstances and you can only do this by looking at all the evidence surrounding the murder of Keri Harrigan."
In relation to conspiracy to murder charge, she said the same principles apply to this and the crown must establish that they were part of an agreement and had an intention to murder Francis. She said the essence of conspiracy is in the agreement and that agreement can be proved by direct evidence or circumstantial evidence.
"...You have two tasks ahead of you; a decision on the murder of Keri Harrigan and conspiracy to murder Melbourne Francis."
Senior Crown Counsel Valston Graham and Benjamin are prosecuting the case. Simmonds Jr. is represented by Attorney-at-law Corrine George, Edwards by Stephen Daniels and Baptiste by Patrick Thompson.