Lawyer Urges Jurors To Clear Man Of Valentine's Day Killing

THE lawyer for a man accused of killing his godmother on Valentine's Day three years ago in Grand Bahama urged jurors not to convict him, saying police investigations were not thorough.

Dwayne Belizaire, is on trial for the murder of Margaret Smith at Eight Mile Rock. Closing arguments in the case were heard yesterday.

Justice Estelle Gray-Evans is set to deliver her summation this morning to the jury.

Belizaire, 33, is represented by Jethlyn Burrows. He took the stand on Monday and denied killing Smith, and claimed that scratches found on his body were from lovemaking with his girlfriend and playing basketball.

Smith was found dead at her residence in Seagrape, Eight Mile Rock, on February 14, 2017. She had been strangled and immersed in water. She was found naked in her bathtub.

During her closing arguments, Ms Burrows told jurors that based on the circumstantial evidence provided by the prosecution in the case, her client could not be convicted.

The attorney claimed the police investigations were “not thorough” enough, and that the handling and storage by police officers of forensic evidence concerning the defendant’s blood samples were “a major weakness.”

She noted that blood samples collected by a doctor and turned over to a police officer were stored in a refrigerator in an open area at the Criminal Records Office, where several officers had access to the area.

“There was no evidence to suggest it was locked," she said. "The chain of custody is highly suspect, and the exhibits could have been easily moved.”

In terms of DNA evidence, Ms Burrows said that Belizaire’s DNA, which was found under the fingernail clippings of the deceased, is “insufficient to tie the defendant to the crime.”

She also said that a condom with her client’s DNA that was found in bushes behind the deceased woman’s house did not have any of Smith’s DNA on it.

“The prosecution would have you believe Margaret Smith was raped because of how the body was found. No condom was ever used on Margaret Smith,” she said, referring to evidence given by the pathologist who performed an autopsy.

Ms Burrows also noted the prosecution provided no evidence in relation to the bite mark found on the deceased’s arm. She explained that impressions of the defendant’s teeth could have been taken to see if it matches those of Belizaire.

“Had that been done, Dwayne Belizaire could have been ruled in or out,” she said.

She also argued that Smith could have been killed by her lover, a police officer, with whom she had a longstanding affair. Her lover's wife did not know he was still seeing Smith, and the man's semen was in Smith’s vagina.

Ms Burrows also indicated that except for the keys found in bushes, it is not known whether several other items, including, clothing and underwear, belonged to Smith as her DNA was not found on any of the items.

“I thought that police would have crossed their Ts and dotted their “i”s to solve this case,” she said.

Ms Burrows pointed out that defence witness Juliet Williams had corroborated Belizaire’s evidence that he had gotten scratches on his body from a previous altercation with Williams, his baby’s mother, and during their lovemaking.

She also noted that there are no eyewitnesses who saw Belizaire at Smith’s house on the day in question.

Prosecutor Erica Kemp, however, argued that while there are no eyewitnesses who saw Belizaire at Smith’s house, DNA evidence links him to the murder.

“The only explanation why his DNA was found under fingernail clippings of Margaret Smith is because he is the murderer,” she told jurors.

Mrs Kemp said that Smith fought with her attacker and scratched the defendant. “That’s how his DNA got under the fingernails,” she stated.

The prosecutor explained to the jury that Sgt Jenkins Gibson was in a relationship with Smith for some 23 years and was the father of her two children who were both grown children living at home with their mother.

She said that Sgt Gibson testified that he had sex with Smith on February 13 and when he left that evening, she and the children were alive and well.

Mrs Kemp said that Belizaire testified that he saw Smith on her porch on the morning of February 14 and wished her Happy Valentine’s Day as he passed her house.

The prosecutor argued that Belizaire visited Smith that morning and committed the murder between 10am and noon.

She said there was no forced entry because Smith knew Belizaire, who was her godson.

Prosecutor Kemp told jurors that although Smith is dead, she "spoke loud and clear of what happened" that fateful day.

“She told us who killed her by scratching the man who she stood godmother for, that Dwayne Belizaire squeezed the life out of her. And to add insult to injury, that same day he went to the movies,” she told jurors.

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