After three-and-a-half years, two trials and two convictions, Jahlil Ward was sentenced to 10 years behind bars last week for stabbing 21-year-old Jamie Cockayne to death on a Cruz Bay street.
Cockayne had spent a few months on St. John in 2007 waiting for British Virgin Islands officials to clear his paperwork before taking a sailing instructor job on Virgin Gorda. The Pennsylvania resident had recently celebrated his 21st birthday when he had a run-in with Ward and two other St. John men the night of June 19, 2007.
Cockayne got into an altercation with Ward, Anselmo Boston and Kamal Thomas outside of the Front Yard Bar in Cruz Bay shortly after midnight on June 19, 2007.
During two trials, prosecutors alleged that the three men followed Cockayne up the street from the bar to the area near Fashion Palace in Estate Enighed where they beat and stabbed him to death before fleeing.
Cockayne suffered eight stab wounds including one to the femoral artery and he bled to death on the Cruz Bay street before emergency responders arrived.
Boston and Thomas were arrested in late 2007 and Ward was nabbed by VIPD on June 27, 2008. All three defendants faced a jury in a joined trial in October 2008. Jurors in that trial found Ward guilty of first-degree murder, third-degree assault and weapons charges. The jury acquitted Boston and Thomas of murder, but found both men guilty of assault and weapons charges.
In July 2009, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar tossed Ward’s murder conviction because prosecutors had not shared a piece of evidence. Hollar overturned the convictions of Boston and Thomas in September 2009 after learning that Cockayne’s family had paid several witnesses who testified during the trial.
The second time around, Hollar ordered Thomas and Boston’s trial to be separate from Ward’s trial. In March 2010, Boston and Thomas faced their second jury, which convicted both men of third-degree assault and weapons charges again.
Hollar sentenced both men in November 2010 to about eight years in jail. They are currently serving those sentences.
Ward faced his second jury in December 2009 and that time around he was convicted of second-degree murder. In July 2010, Hollar threw out that conviction on grounds that prosecutors had prevented a defense witness from returning to the territory to stand trial.
Instead of facing a third trial this month, Ward accepted a plea deal of one count of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Ward used what is known as an Alford Plea, which allowed him to submit a guilty plea in court while still maintaining his innocence.
Hollar handed down the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the 24-year-old St. John man in V.I. Superior Court on Thursday, January 6, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.
Ward’s sentence includes time served and he was ordered to pay $10,000 for Cockayne’s funeral expenses, according to the report. Before announcing Ward’s sentence, Cockayne’s parents Bill and Jeanie Cockayne, his bother Jeff and uncle, Peter Goetz, gave statement impacts to the judge, according to the report in the V.I. Daily News.
Ward’s sister and a family friend also addressed the court during last week’s sentencing, according to the report.