St. John Tradewinds News

Jahlil Ward Granted Third Trial for Cockayne Murder

More than three years after 21-year-old Jamie Cockayne was stabbed to death on a Cruz Bay street, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar ordered a new trial for the man who has already been convicted of the murder by two separate juries.

In an order handed down on July 23, Hollar granted Jahlil Ward, 22, of Estate Gifft Hill a new trial due to a prosecutorial error.

This is the second time Hollar has granted Ward a new trial. He was convicted of first degree murder in October 2008, a ruling which Hollar threw out in April 2009. Then the jury in Ward’s second trial, in December 2009, handed down a second-degree murder verdict.

Ward filed another motion for a new trial in January 2010 claiming he did not get a fair trial due to errors on behalf of the prosecution in admitting unredacted statements and excluding a different statement from evidence.

“A serious miscarriage of justice will occur if Ward’s conviction stands since the verdict is hinged on uncorroborated confessions allegedly made by Ward to a series of individuals, whose testimony was impeached and who each had a bias against Ward,” according to Hollar’s July 23 opinion agreeing with Ward’s motion.

Hollar has not set a date for Ward’s third trial, but she did schedule sentencing for two men who were convicted of assaulting Cockayne hours before he was stabbed to death.

 

Kamal Thomas and Anselmo Boston, who were both convicted of third-degree assault and weapons charges, will be sentenced on August 30.

 

For Thomas, 21, and Boston, 34, that should mark the end of the road for trials, appeals and motions. For Ward and the Cockayne family, their years-long journey through the Virgin Islands justice system continues.

Hollar had not set a date yet for Ward’s third trial and V.I. Department of Justice officials were still considering their options as of press time.

“The government is reviewing and digesting the order to determine what its next steps will be,” said DOJ spokesperson Sara Lezama.

Cockayne, a Pennsylvania resident, had lived on St. John for several months when he had a run-in with Thomas, Boston and Ward in the former Cruz Bay nightclub the Front Yard Bar.

On the night of June 18, 2007, Cockayne got into an altercation with the three St. John men inside the bar. The men, each carrying sticks, followed Cockayne up the street toward Dolphin Market where they surrounded him and beat him.

Several hours later, during the early morning hours of June 19, 2007, Ward followed Cockayne up the street and stabbed him to death outside of the Fashion Palace, according to prosecutors.

Ward stabbed Cockayne several times, including a fatal blow in the femoral artery, before fleeing on foot, and asking a resident in the area for a ride, prosecutors alleged during both trials.

Cockayne was found on the street in Cruz Bay bleeding profusely and died before emergency medical officials arrived at the scene.

In the wake of the 2007 murder, Cockayne’s parents lambasted the V.I. Police Department in the national media for what they believed to be shoddy investigative work. Appearing on national television shows like Larry King Live and Greta van Susteren’s On the Record, the Cockaynes demanded “Justice for Jamie,” a cry for which they continue to call.

Thomas and Boston were arrested in August 2007 and Ward was arrested almost a year later, in June 2008. All three men were initially slapped with first degree murder, first degree assault and weapons charges. They all faced the same jury in their first trial, which was joined, in October 2008.

That jury found Ward alone guilty of first degree murder, with Thomas and Boston guilty of third-degree assault and weapons charges. After the verdicts were handed down attorneys for all three men filed motions for new trials.

Ward’s conviction was overturned when prosecutors handed over a statement from a convict who was in a jail cell next to Thomas. Daryl Martens was interviewed by the prosecution in September 2007, and stated that Thomas had confessed to the murder. Prosecutors, however, didn’t hand that piece of evidence over to Ward’s attorney until four months after the conviction.

Thomas and Boston were granted new trials after it was revealed that the Cockayne family had paid reward money to several witnesses who had testified during the trial.

This time around, Ward’s trial was separated from that of Thomas and Boston. Ward faced his second jury in December 2009, and was convicted of second degree murder, assault and using a dangerous weapons during the commission of a crime of violence.

Boston and Thomas faced their second jury in March 2010 and were both found guilty of simple assault, third degree assault, and weapons charges. Thomas alone was also convicted of obstruction of justice and threatening witnesses.

Thomas and Ward are both still in jail at the Bureau of Corrections on St. Thomas, while Boston remains out on $75,000 bail.