More than three years after James “Jamie” Cockayne was stabbed to death in downtown Cruz Bay, a V.I. Superior Court Judge handed down sentences last week to two men found guilty of assaulting the 21-year-old Pennsylvania man less than an hour before his death.
Cockayne was stabbed eight times, including a fatal blow in his femoral artery, in the early morning hours of June 19, 2007. He bled to death on a Cruz Bay street before emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene.
Kamal Thomas, 21, and Anselmo Boston, 34, were each convicted of third-degree assault, using a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime of violence and simple assault. Thomas was also convicted of threatening a witness.
For the third-degree assault charge, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar sentenced the two St. John men to 48 months in jail, with 18 months suspended, and levied fines of $1,500 each, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.
For the associated weapons charges, Hollar sentenced the pair to 10 years in jail, with two years suspended, and levied fines of $10,000 each. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, according to the report.
For the simple assault charges, Thomas and Boston were sentenced to six months behind bars and additional $250 fine, according to the report in the V.I. Daily News.
Thomas was sentenced to an additional five years in jail for threatening a witness, with two years suspended and fined an another $2,000, according to the V.I. Daily News.
The sentences for Cockayne’s assailants were handed down after two trials and years of wrangling between defence and prosecution attorneys.
After Cockayne was found dead outside of the Fashion Palace in Estate Enighed in June 2007, V.I. Police Department officials didn’t make any arrests for months. In the weeks after the murder, Cockayne’s parents lambasted the VIPD, for what they believed to be inaction, on national news outlets including “Larry King Live” and “On the Record with Greta Van Susetern.”
Initial breaks in the case finally came in August, 2007 when VIPD officials picked up, first Thomas, and then Boston, and charged both with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and weapons charges.
Almost a year later, in June 2008, Jahlil Ward, 23, was arrested when he returned to the territory for the St. John Fourth of July Festival. He too was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and weapons charges.
All three suspects faced the same jury in a joined case in October 2008. During that four-day trial, prosecution attorneys alleged that all three men set in motion the events that eventually ended with Cockayne’s death on a Cruz Bay street.
Prosecutors alleged that Cockayne had kicked Boston’s girlfriend’s car during the afternoon of June 18, 2007. When Cockayne ran into Boston, Thomas and Ward later that night at what was the Front Yard Bar — the establishment has since been torn down and turned into a parking lot — the men got into an altercation.
During the melee in the Front Yard Bar, Boston broke a pool stick over Cockayne’s head, according to prosecutors. After being kicked out of the bar, the three men carried the broken pool stick, picked up a two-by-four and followed Cockayne up the street to near Dolphin Market, prosecutors alleged.
After surrounding Cockayne and beating him with the weapons, prosecutors alleged that Ward followed the Pennsylvania man to the Estate Enighed near the Fashion Palace, where he was stabbed eight times behind a scaffold.
The jury in the October 2008 trial found Ward guilty of first-degree murder, third-degree assault and weapons charges. That jury found Thomas and Boston not guilty of murder, but guilty of two counts of third-degree assault and associated weapons charges.
In November 2008, Hollar reduced one third-degree assault charge to simple assault for both Thomas and Boston. In July 2009, Hollar sentenced the two men to 12-and-a-half years behind bars each and levied fines of $11,500 each. First degree murder carries a required sentence of life in prison, which is what Ward faced after his conviction.
All three men, however, had their sentences quashed in the months after that first trial. Ward’s attorney, Michael Quinn, won a new trial for his client after it was revealed that prosecutors had failed to turn over a key piece of evidence.
Thomas and Boston were granted new trials after it was brought to the court’s attention that the Cockayne family had paid witnesses who testified during the October 2008 trial.
The second time around, the three men’s trials were separated with Thomas and Boston facing one jury and Ward facing a separate jury.
Ward faced his second jury in December 2009, and was convicted of second-degree murder, assault and weapons charges. Thomas and Boston faced their second trial in March 2010, and were convicted of third-degree assault, simple assault and weapons charges. Thomas alone was also convicted of threatening a witness.
Ward’s attorney again petitioned the court for a new trial for his client, which is pending. V.I. Assistant Attorney General Claude Walker also filed a motion for Hollar to recuse herself from the trial, a motion on which she has not yet ruled.
After last week’s sentences were handed down to the two men convicted twice of beating her son, Cockayne’s mother expressed relief and continued sadness.
“My thoughts are somewhat scattered but, I can only hope that this time is the last time we will be forced to visit the conviction and sentencing of these two criminals,” said Jeanie Cockayne. “I feel lighter knowing we are done with them, until they come up for parole that is. I sincerely thank all Virgin Islanders who have stood by us through these past three-and-a-half years.
“I hope the citizens of the VI also feel lighter knowing these criminals are off the streets,” said Jeanie Cockayne.