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Jury to Begin Deliberating Potter's Fate Friday

Maybe there was a third person in the victim’s car or maybe a victim’s mother had information leading elsewhere, the defense for accused double murderer Neville Potter Jr. argued Thursday, while prosecutors in turn rejected those arguments, noting that two eyewitness unhesitatingly identified Potter.

It was the third day of Potter’s trial in V.I. Superior Court for the Feb. 8, 2009 murders of Marvis Chamaro and Jack Diehl. Potter, 32, of Kirwan Terrace, was arrested Feb. 13, 2009 for the crimes. The prosecution rested Wednesday, and the defense presented its case and rested Thursday.

Potter defense attorney Leslie Payton called Detective Jason Marsh, who is tasked with managing all the documents and evidence in the case, to the stand and asked him about his references to “he/she” in an April 2009 affidavit describing witness Kyle Gumbs’ statement.

Gumbs was in the car with Chamaro at the time of the incident and testified previously he and Chamaro were attacked by Potter and they both ran into thick brush in the Mandahl area trying to escape Potter. Gumbs and another witness picked Potter from an array of photos the day of the killing and identified him in court as the perpetrator.

“You said Mr. Gumbs told you there was a lady and a man with Mr. Gumbs in the car on Feb. 8, 2009?” Payton asked Marsh.

“I said he/she,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he referred again and again to “he/she” to avoid revealing the gender of the witness, and after saying he/she over and over again, he misspoke, referring to a lady, then continued to refer to the witness as he/she for the rest of the statement. Marsh said he misspoke once out of several dozen references because he had a cold that day and was tired.

Assistant Attorney General Sprotte asked Marsh “is it the longstanding practice of the police to refer cross-gender to witnesses, saying he/she, him/her and “they” when speaking so a listener will not know whom you speak of?” Marsh said that was so and that is what he was trying to do.

Later, Payton asked Gumbs to the stand and posed similar questions.

“If I told you that Detective Marsh said under oath you said there was a woman in the car with you, what would you say?” Payton asked.

“Mr. Marsh would not be telling the truth,” said Gumbs.

Payton also referred to a letter sent to police by Chamaro’s mother, Marvis Williams, that may have mentioned a possible connection to Chamaro’s girlfriend, suggesting there was a lead in the case that police did not bother to follow.

On rebuttal, Sprotte asked Marsh about that unspecified possible lead. Marsh said he followed up the day he got the letter, but found it to be a dead end. During testimony earlier in the week, Williams said “I did not write anything about who killed my son.”

Payton pressed hard on the fact that no DNA, fingerprints or physical evidence tied Potter to the crime. Prosecutors responded that there was heavy rain that day and there was a wealth of other evidence, including two independent eyewitness identifications.

In the early afternoon the defense rested, after which both sides made closing arguments. Payton again raised the possibility there was a woman in the victim’s car.

“You should totally discount his [Gumbs’] testimony, because at the time of the incident he said there was a lady in the car and there were basically five people there,” he said.

Payton also discounted the two positive identifications and several other partial descriptions, saying “all they have is a black man with short dreads,” which could apply to a large number of young men on St. Thomas.

Near the end of his closing, Payton pulled out a chain and some dominoes, explaining a “weakest link” and “domino” theory of guilt. “If you are guilty of count one, then all the rest of the charges follow. The same with the dominoes. If the first one falls then the rest fall,” he said, knocking over the dominoes on the lectern. “That is why I say these are trumped-up charges,” he said.

In his closing, Walker again recounted the horrifying, brutal details of the two murders, and summed up the evidence against Potter, focusing not just on the two identifying witnesses but several other witness accounts that corroborated details of those witnesses accounts.

After closing arguments, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar said she would read jury instructions Friday morning, at which point the jury will retire to chambers to consider the evidence and determine their verdict.

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