Created on Thursday, 03 May 2012 22:20
Written by Jaime Elliott
A year and a half after being convicted of assaulting Jamie Cockayne hours before the Pennsylvania man was stabbed to death, Kamal Thomas and Anselmo Boston might get another day in court.
The V.I. Supreme Court heard the two men’s appeals in March and recently found that their cases should be returned to V.I. Superior Court for further evidentiary hearings.
Cockayne had recently turned 21 when he was stabbed eight times, including once in the femoral artery, in front of the Fashion Palace just after midnight on June 19, 2007. Cockayne bled to death on the Cruz Bay street before emergency responders arrived on the scene.
After several trials and vacated convictions, spanning more than two years, Thomas and Boston were convicted in 2010 of beating Cockayne hours before he was stabbed to death. A third defendant, Jahlil Ward, accepted a deal from prosecutors in December 2011 in which he pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors alleged that Boston, of St. Croix, and Thomas, of St. John, along with Ward, also of St. John, got into an altercation with Cockayne at a Cruz Bay bar the night of June 18. After following Cockayne up the street, prosecutors alleged the three men beat him with at least one broken pool stick.
Thomas was convicted of third-degree assault, using a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence and two counts of threatening a witness. He was sentenced in November 2010 to about 9 years behind bars.
Boston was convicted of third-degree assault, using a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence and simple assault. He was sentenced in November 2010 to about 8 years in jail.
In its appeal opinion, the V.I. Supreme Court found that the Superior Court committed a reversible error by not holding an evidentiary hearing to investigate possibly jury misconduct. According to Thomas’ appeal, an alternate juror approached Thomas’ attorney and told him that the jury had their minds made up, according to the Supreme Court opinion.
“In this case the defendant alleged that one of the jurors informed the other members of jury panel that defendant and a co-defendant had killed an individual victim and gotten away with it,” according to the opinion.
While there was no evidence presented at trial to suggest that Thomas or Boston were involved with Cockayne’s death, the Superior Court should have held an evidentiary hearing to determine if the information from the juror affected the verdict, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion.
“The trial court should have, at a minimum, held a limited evidentiary hearing to allow the juror to testify whether any extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention,” according to the V.I. Supreme Court opinion. “This matter is therefore remanded to the Superior Court for an evidentiary hearing.”
If the jury misconduct is substantiated during an evidentiary hearing, it could result in a new trial for both Thomas and Boston.
Boston’s appeal was based on grounds that the jury convicted him of simple assault without sufficient evidence. His appeal only relates to the misdemeanor of simple assault, for which he served six months concurrent with the two felony charges of third-degree assault and weapons charges.
The Supreme Court found that enough evidence did exist to support the simple assault conviction.
“In a prosecution leading to convictions for assault and using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence, reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, a rational jury could have found the essential elements of the crime of simple assault beyond a reasonable doubt, upon proof that this defendant assaulted or aided and abetted the assault of the victim, including testimony of a witness who drove by the scene and alerted authorities to the attack, as well as the existence of numerous contusions and abrasions on the victim’s face, arms, neck, shoulder, and legs, which were consistent with being punched, kicked, or struck with a stick,” according to the Supreme Court’s opinion.
“There was evidence from which the jury could reasonably have inferred that one of the individuals attacking the victim in the narrow time-frame involved was this defendant, and the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction,” according to the opinion.
The possible jury misconduct, however, also affects Boston’s conviction, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion.
“It would be manifestly unjust to remand the co-defendant’s case [Thomas] for a hearing on the issue of jury misconduct and not the case of the present defendant [Boston], when the allegations proffer that both suffered the same prejudice from the same fundamental error in the same trial,” according to the Supreme Court’s opinion. “This matter will therefore be remanded to the Superior Court for an evidentiary hearing regarding juror misconduct.”