By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A Long Island-based beautician has had her conviction overturned for robbing a local web shop manager of $17,000 four years ago, but will remain behind bars for conspiring to commit the robbery.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Daphne Knowles should serve the remainder of her 11-year sentence for conspiring to rob Andrea Carroll, despite quashing her conviction for robbing the woman of $17,477 sometime between November 28 and 29 of 2014. Carroll was killed during the robbery.
The reason for quashing Knowles’ robbery conviction, the appellate judges said, was because the Crown’s case in relation to that charge bore no “direct evidence” linking the accused to the offence.
And in the absence of such evidence, the judges said Knowles being part of a plan to rob Carroll was not sufficient to prove she took the $17,000 from the victim, or that $17,000 found in her shop belonged to the victim.
However, the justices found there was “no error” on Knowles’ conspiracy conviction as her actions both prior to the robbery and afterwards “showed her participation in a plan” to commit the robbery.
According to the ruling, sometime between November 28 and 29, 2014, Carroll, a manager at Bowe’s Web Shop was robbed and murdered. She was found lifeless with cuts, bruises, a broken neck and a broken spinal cord.
Knowles’ house was subsequently searched and $17,477 was found that was believed to be the property of the deceased. She was subsequently arrested and charged with murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.
She later stood trial before Justice Bernard Turner after denying the allegations.
At trial, the Crown’s case was circumstantial and came from four witnesses. The first, Kelson Smith, was a security guard in October 2014 and worked for Carroll at her home in Long Island. He also knew Knowles, who also worked for Carroll and whom he had seen in Carroll’s home on previous occasions.
In October 2014, while working at Carroll’s premises, Mr Smith said he heard a car approaching. The vehicle had no lights, so he got up and walked to the street light in front of the yard. He said he heard two doors open and close, and upon looking at the car, he saw Knowles who told another person “let’s go, let’s go”.
He said Knowles and the other person got into the car and headed north.
The following month, Mr Smith and his brother Rafford Smith went to Knowles’ house to speak to her son, Fano. While they were in the kitchen talking, it was alleged Knowles came in and said: “We need to rob Andrea.”
Mr Smith said after Knowles noted that he worked with Ms Carroll, he in turn told her that he could leave a window open. When Mr Smith and his brother were leaving Knowles’ house, she told Mr Smith she would give him $2,000 to leave the window open.
On the 28th of that month, Mr Smith was at his day job at Island Luck when Knowles visited him sometime after 6pm. The two arranged to meet later that night after a concert they were due to attend. Mr Smith told Knowles he had left Carroll’s kitchen window open.
Four days later, Knowles visited Mr Smith at his workplace and told him she had the $2,000 for him. She also told him they could blame Carroll’s murder on her boyfriend at the time, Noel Turnquest.
On December 5, 2014, Fernando Knowles and a group of police officers conducted a search of Knowles’ home, where they discovered a large sum of cash wrapped in elastic bands amounting to $17,478.
Knowles, meanwhile, denied committing any of the offences or having any conversations with Mr Smith. She further claimed she did not go to Carroll’s home between November 28 and 29, as she was at a concert from 8pm with her boyfriend Stanley Pinder and another person, Rico Archer. And around 4am the following morning, she said they dropped Archer home.
Knowles also admitted to having $17,000 in her shop, “Daphne’s Spot”, but said it was obtained largely from selling drugs.
Following the trial, the jury returned a hung verdict of 7-5 on the murder charge, which is not acceptable in law. However, she was unanimously convicted of the robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery charges.
She was subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison on both charges, to run concurrently. However, she was credited for the three years she spent on remand, resulting in her being ordered to serve 11 years.
Knowles appealed both her conviction and sentence on five grounds, one of which asserted that the trial judge erred in law when he allowed the jury to consider the robbery charge, which did not arise from the facts of the case.
The Crown, meanwhile, contended that although there was no direct evidence of robbery, Knowles’ actions prior to and after the offence was committed showed a plan to commit the crime.
The appellate judges sided with Knowles on that ground, asserting their finding that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that the money found in Knowles’ shop was taken and/or obtained from Carroll.
“The evidence that the appellant was a part of a plan to rob does not in our view become sufficient evidence that the money found in (Knowles’) shop was taken from the deceased,” the appellate judges said. “Accordingly, there is merit in this ground as there was insufficient evidence that (Knowles) unlawfully took the $17,477 from the deceased or that it was the property of the deceased.”
However, the appellate justices dismissed the other four grounds and affirmed the conviction and sentence for the conspiracy charge.