Jahlil Ward is heading back to V.I. Superior Court to face murder, assault and weapons charges for the third time.
In an order dated May 26, 2011, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar “reluctantly” denied Ward’s motion to dismiss. In doing so, the judge did not rule out the possibility of a future dismissal.
Ward is charged with murdering 21-year-old Jamie Cockayne on June 19, 2007, in downtown Cruz Bay. Cockayne — a Pennsylvania resident who was on St. John for a few months awaiting work in the British Virgin Islands — was stabbed eight times, including in the femoral artery, outside the Fashion Palace just after midnight on June 19, 2007.
The stabbing occurred about a half hour after Cockayne got into an altercation in a Cruz Bay bar with Ward, and Anselmo Boston and Kamal Thomas.
Boston and Thomas were arrested in August 2007 and held on murder, assault and weapons charges. Ward was arrested on June 27, 2008 and faced his first trial — which was joined with the two co-defendants — in October 2008.
After a five-day trial, a jury found Ward guilty of first-degree murder, third degree assault and weapons charges. Boston and Thomas were both acquitted of murder, but found guilty of third-degree assault and weapons charges. All of those convictions, however, were eventually thrown out by Hollar.
Ward’s conviction was set aside in July 2009 when his attorney learned of a piece of evidence which the prosecution had not shared. Thomas and Boston’s convictions were thrown out in September 2009 after Hollar learned that the Cockayne family had paid cash rewards to several witnesses who testified during the trial.
Ward’s second trial was separated from that of Boston and Thomas. Boston and Thomas faced their second jury in March 2010, and were convicted of third-degree assault, weapons and simple assault charges.
Hollar sentenced the men to 48 months in jail with 18 months suspended for the third-degree assault charge and a consecutive 10 year term, with two years suspended, for the weapons charge. Both men were also fined about $11,750 for the charges.
Ward faced his second jury in December 2009. That jury found Ward guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree assault and weapons charges. That conviction was tossed out in July 2010 and Ward has been awaiting Hollar’s decision on his motion to dismiss since then.
Ward has been awaiting this news from Edwin Penn’s Estate Adrian residence since Hollar granted him a bail reduction in February 2011. Hollar allowed Ward to post 10 percent of his $100,000 bail to secure his release.
Hollar’s order means Ward will return to V.I. Superior Court to face the second-degree murder, assault and weapons charges for the third time. According to Hollar’s opinion, however, the judge seems to have just barely denied Ward’s motion to dismiss.
In Hollar’s Memorandum Opinion, filed on May 26, the V.I. Superior Court judge used strong language outlining numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct, warning that any more violations would lead her to “immediately dismiss this matter with prejudice.”
Hollar cited numerous “Brady” and “Giglio” evidence and violations in her opinion, painting a picture of the V.I. Attorney General’s Office not fully disclosing evidence to the defense.
In Brady vs. Maryland, “the Supreme Court held that ‘the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment irrespective of the good or bad faith of the prosecution,’” according to Hollar’s opinion.
In her opinion, Hollar cited nine instances of the prosecution making Brady violations dating back to Ward’s first trial, by either withholding evidence or not fully disclosing evidence which would have been favorable to the defense.
Giglio vs. United States deals with a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must disclose evidence relating to the reliability of a witness. Hollar cited two instances of the prosecution making Giglio violations in her Memorandum Opinion.
“Since 2008, the prosecution in this case has either suppressed or failed to timely disclose Brady/Giglio evidence,” Hollar wrote in the opinion. “Undaunted by the granting of two new trials, this unabated conduct has persisted.”
A large portion of Hollar’s opinion is dedicated to prosecution witness Glanville Frazer, who also testified in the consolidated cases “People vs. Jahwada Jones” and “People vs. Lawrence Powell.”
Frazer, who was a main prosecution witness in both of Ward’s trials, was declared a hostile witness after recanting his statements and giving conflicting testimony in court.
Frazer first identified Lawrence Powell and Jahwada Jones as the assailants in another brutal Cruz Bay incident.
“Prior to the Court’s inquiry, the People had not acknowledged, revealed or disclosed to the defense that Glanville Frazer was a common witness in the two cases; both of which involved intoxicated, non-resident, Caucasian victims on the island of St. John that were brutally assaulted by allegedly multiple Black assailants,” Hollar wrote in her May 26 opinion. “Both victims were also apparently seeking to purchase drugs from ‘locals’ on St. John.”
In court Frazer recanted his earlier statements about Lawrence Powell and Jahwada Jones, saying that Ariel Powell, who was alive when Cockayne was killed but has since died, had committed the crime. Hollar included a transcript from the January 2011 Jones/Powell trial in her opinion detailing Frazer’s change of tune.
“This testimony of Glanville Frazer, if believed, is critical in Defendant Ward’s new trial since Ariel Powell was alive at the time James Cockayne was murdered and Frazer admits that Ariel Powell threatened and forced him to ‘misidentify’ innocent persons in order to deflect attention from his culpability,” Hollar wrote in her opinion.
Assistant Attorney Generals Claude Walker and Courtney Reese, the prosecutors for the case, still have not dealt with these violations, Hollar wrote.
“To date, the prosecution has not disclosed this ‘material’ information or the fact that Frazer was declared a ‘hostile’ witness to Defendant Ward,” Hollar wrote. “Instead of divulging this critical information to defense counsel, the People disingenuously contend that notice is not warranted ‘because the cases are not relevant to each other.’”
“Even more shocking and shameful, the prosecution has the ‘chutzpah’ to categorically assert that no government witness in the Jones/Powell case made inconsistent statements regarding their involvement in the case,” wrote Hollar. “Consequently, the People’s recent transgressions confirm that absent stern reproach and deterrence, the prosecution has not intention of or incentive to uphold its obligations and/or duties under Brady.”
Despite all of that, however, Hollar ruled to deny Ward’s motion for dismissal with prejudice. The judge did, however, impose sanctions on the prosecution. Prosecutors are barred from using two witnesses, Glanville Frazer and Jo’Nique Clendinen, in Ward’s third trial.
“Although the Court will reluctantly refrain from invoking its inherent/supervisory powers to dismiss the above styled matter with prejudice at this time, it will impose a sanction above and beyond the granting of a new trial in order to deter the People’s apparent lawlessness,” Hollar wrote. “If, however, the prosecution insists on proving to the Court that it is ‘bent on mischief’ and commits one more Brady or Giglio violation, the Court will, without hesitation, immediately dismiss this matter with prejudice.”
A date for Ward’s third trial has not been set, but Hollar did order a status hearing on the case for Monday, June 20, at 9 a.m.