Jahlil Ward Refuses Plea Deal, Heading Back to Court in Cockayne Murder Case

Jahlil Ward is heading back to court for a third time to face charges that he killed Jamie Cockayne in Cruz Bay in 2007.
Ward refused the prosecution’s plea deal offer last week to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, ensuring that the St. John man will face his third trial on charges of stabbing 21-year-old Cockayne to death on a Cruz Bay street in June 2007.
Ward, 23,  of Gifft Hill was arrested in June 2008 and charged with first-degree murder, third-degree assault and weapons charges.

Following his first trial, in October 2008, Ward was found guilty of first-degree murder. That verdict was tossed out by V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar on grounds that the prosecution did not share evidence with Ward’s defense lawyer.
Ward was granted a re-trial and faced his second jury in December 2009. Jurors in that case found the St. John man guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree assault and weapons charges.

During Ward’s January 2010 sentencing, however, his defense attorney Michael Quinn petitioned for a new trial on grounds that the prosecution prevented a key witness from returning to the territory to testify on Ward’s behalf, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.

Hollar granted Quinn’s petition for a new trial, setting up his third round before a Virgin Islands jury. A date for Ward’s third trial has not been set. Ward has been locked up at the V.I. Bureau of Corrections on St. Thomas since his arrest in June 2008, despite Hollar’s order in February to reduce his bail.

Setting up his potential release from jail in February 2011, Hollar granted Ward’s motion for reduction in bail and allowed him to be released on posting 10 percent of his $100,000 bail. Ward did not, however, secure his release to home confinement and remains in jail on St. Thomas, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.

Prosecutors in his first two trials contended that Ward — along with two other men who are serving sentences for assault and weapons charges — fought with 21-year-old Pennsylvania resident Jamie Cockayne outside a Cruz Bay bar the night of June 19, 2007.

After the altercation outside the Front Yard Bar, Ward followed Cockayne up the street to the Fashion Palace, where he stabbed the Pennsylvania man eight times, including once in the femoral artery, according to prosecutors. Cockayne died from his wounds before emergency responders arrived just after midnight on June 19, 2007.

In the months following his murder, Cockayne’s family launched a media blitz, appearing on Larry King Live, Greta van Susteren and other national news outlets, accusing the V.I. Police Department of inaction.

Anselmo Boston and Kamal Thomas were arrested along with Ward and all three faced first-degree murder, assault and weapons charges in a joined trial in October 2008. Jurors that time around found Ward guilty of murder and Boston and Thomas guilty of assault and weapons charges.

After Hollar threw all of those convictions out. Boston and Thomas faced a second jury together in March 2010 and were once again convicted of assault and weapons charges. Both men were sentenced in November 2010 are currently serving out their roughly seven year prison terms handed down by Hollar.

Ward’s third trial date has not been scheduled.