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HomeNewsArchivesJudge Not Convinced Three Cockayne Murder Suspects Should be Tried Together

Judge Not Convinced Three Cockayne Murder Suspects Should be Tried Together

Aug. 19, 2008 — Three suspects have been charged with the June 2007 murder of James "Jamie" Cockayne, but attorneys for the V.I. government won't be able to try them together until they can convince a judge that all three "aided and abetted" each other in the crime.
V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda J. Hollar gave government attorneys a week to file briefs in support of consolidating the three cases. Attorneys for the three suspects — Kamal "Six-Pack" Thomas, Anselmo R. Boston and Jahlil Ward — will then have three days to respond to the briefs. During a hearing Tuesday, Hollar said all of the government's initial information, including two affidavits and various witness statements, pointed to only two suspects: Thomas and Boston.
"I don't see the link," Hollar said repeatedly throughout the hearing. "There were always two — never did I hear about a third person. You're saying that they aided and abetted each other on inconsistent theories."
Thomas and Boston were arrested last year after witnesses said the two were involved in an argument with Cockayne on the night of his murder on St. John. Boston, who faces first-degree murder, weapons and assault charges in Cockayne's death, has admitted to having a verbal confrontation with "a white guy" who had "kicked his jeep" earlier that evening, according to a statement obtained by police after the incident.
Boston added that he hit Cockayne in the shoulder and neck with a pool stick, but did not follow when Cockayne left the Front Yard Bar in Cruz Bay a little while later.
In a statement taken shortly after his arrest, Thomas told investigators that he was at the Front Yard Bar from 10 to 11:30 p.m. on the evening of June 19, 2007, and was involved in an argument with Cockayne. The two were later thrown out by the bartender, and alibi witnesses can place Thomas at a nearby beach during the time of Cockayne's murder, said Thomas' former defense attorney, Harold Willocks, at a hearing about a year ago.
Boston has since said that it was Ward who took the pool stick out of his hand as he was beating Cockayne at the bar, said prosecuting attorney Renee Gumbs Carty during Tuesday's hearing.
"Mr. Ward even places himself at the Front Yard Bar on the night of the murder," she told Hollar. "Kamal Thomas says he, Boston and another guy all chased the deceased up the street to the Fashion Palace."
Another witness said Ward ran to his house shortly after the incident, asked for a ride and admitted to killing "the white guy," she added.
During a hearing in May, Boston's defense attorney, Michael Joseph, claimed a third individual — Ward — had contact with Cockayne on the night of his death. An alibi witness can confirm that Ward confessed to the murder, saying he had "iced the white guy," Joseph said.
Ward was the victim in another unrelated incident, and the government sent him to the mainland under "semi-protective custody" until he was brought back to the territory and arrested for the murder, Carty said after the hearing. During the hearing, Carty explained that Ward was not arrested soon after the incident because there was no "tangible" evidence available to charge him with the murder. New information provided by witnesses and other individuals has changed that, she said.
Hollar was still not convinced, and said that trying the three together would prevent Joseph and Thomas' current attorney, Benjamin Currence, from bringing in evidence that would show there was a third person involved.
Joseph has also said he is going "blame the whole incident" on Ward, defense attorney Anthony Quinn said later in the hearing. Speaking against the motion to consolidate the case, Quinn said that a jury would have to pick sides.
"It's either they believe them, or they believe us," he said, pointing to Ward. "Either way, someone's going to jail."
Later in the hearing, Gumbs Carty tried to get Hollar to allow investigators to search a bag taken from Ward when he was arrested at the airport. The motion became moot after Quinn said attorneys could go through the bag and then turn it back over to his client.
Though Quinn later attempted to get Ward's $100,000 bail amount cut down to $10,000, Hollar said she could not act on his motion because, unless the three cases are brought together, Ward's case has been assigned to another judge, with a trial date set for Oct. 27.
The trial for Thomas and Boston starts Oct. 5, with jury selection beginning two days before, Hollar said. Carty cautioned that evidence sent away to an FBI forensics lab — including blood samples taken from the three suspects and clothing the victim was wearing when he died — would not be completely analyzed and returned until Oct. 1. If any evidence found in Ward's bag needs to be analyzed, it would take longer for the case against him to go to trial, Carty said.
Hollar said she is ready to move forward, and scheduled the final pre-trial hearing for Thomas and Boston on Oct. 1.
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