Third Conviction in Cockayne Murder Trial Overturned; New Trial Granted

All three men convicted in the October 2008 Jamie Cockayne murder trial may not face the same witnesses in retrials ordered by Judge Brenda Hollar after questions were raised by defense attorneys for two men convicted of attacking Cockayne before he was stabbed to death by a third man about “rewards” paid by the

Cockayne family to several witnesses in the trial after it was concluded.

After a four-hour hearing, Judge Hollar ordered new trials for two St. John men, Kamal Thomas and Anselmo Boston, who were convicted of beating Cockayne in an attack on a Cruz Bay street shortly before he was fatally stabbed by a third man, Jahlil Ward. Judge Hollar ordered the attorneys for all three defendants to submit motions for the new trials by September 15, including any motions concerning granting separate trials for all three defendants.

Defense attorneys did not indicate whether they would seek to prevent the prosecution from calling the witnesses who were paid the “rewards” to testify in any retrial for any of the three defendants or another “alibi” witness who did not testify at the first trial.

Ward Already Granted New Trial
Ward, was convicted of inflicting the fatal stab wound which killed Cockayne in a late night attack in the Enighed section of Cruz Bay, but his conviction was overturned in July and he was granted a new trial by Judge Hollar after his attorney argued the government prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence of a jailhouse witness who claimed defendant Thomas had admitted stabbing Cockayne.

The remaining two defendants in the murder trial before Judge Hollar, which brought national attention to St. John and the U.S. Virgin Islands, each were convicted of two counts of third degree assault and two counts of using a dangerous weapon in the October 2008 trial of all three men. In November 2008, Judge Hollar reduced one of the third degree assault convictions against each man to simple assault and the related weapons charges were dismissed.

Boston and Thomas were sentenced to 12 years in prison on July 17 of this year, but Judge Hollar ordered new trials for the duo after the September 5 hearing on a motion for a new trial for the two convicted assailants

That witness, Daryl Martens, did not testify in the trial, but Assistant Attorney General Gumbs-Carty acknowledged at the Friday hearing that Martens received reimbursement from the Cockaynes for about $1,300 in expenses.

The Cockayne family paid two witnesses a total of $5,000 each after the convictions of the three men in accordance with the family’s published offers of a $10,000 reward, V.I. Assistant Attorney General Rene Gumbs-Carty told Judge Hollar. One witness, Aaron Ferguson, was paid an initial $800 and $750 for clothing through his attorney, John Webb, before the trial, according to Gumbs-Carty — who told Judge Hollar that Ferguson’s father approached the Cockayne family seeking reimbursement for expenses, which were included in the reward.

Witness Kenneth Rawlins received a check for $5,000 after the trial, on November 14, 2008, the initial date for the men’s sentencing, but had no contact with the Cockayne family before the trial, according to Gumbs-Carty — who told the hearing on Friday, September 5, that the testimony of two other witnesses led to Ward’s conviction although they were not paid any rewards