By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal recently quashed a man’s 35-year murder sentence after he appealed his conviction on the grounds his verdict was unsafe since he did not receive a fair trial.
Devon King was convicted of murder on June 12, 2016 and sentenced to 35 years in prison a little over a year later on October 27, 2017. King was accused of killing Canill Darville, a man who was shot several times by a gunman wearing a face covering, while he sat outside of his residence on April 14, 2016. According to a Court of Appeal judgment, when police arrived on the scene a short time later, Mr Darville told them that “Devon from upstairs shot me, officer”. Mr Darville later died. King on the other hand, was arrested, charged and convicted of his murder.
On May 5, the appellant appealed his sentence on the grounds the trial judge erred when he failed to tell the jury that they should have rejected the evidence of the “purported dying declaration,” since there was no facts to suggest Mr Darville saw who shot him. King further argued the verdict was “unreasonable” and could not be supported “having regard to the evidence”.
On Wednesday, Justices Jon Isaacs, Roy Jones and Milton Evans quashed King’s conviction after concluding the judge’s direction “overstated” the Crown’s case against King, which led the jury to conclude that the “purported identification” of the appellant was accurate.
According to the judgment, Mr Darville’s brother, Trugillo, along with his mother and niece were at the residence at the time he was shot. His brother was behind him that night and had seen the shooter before he was forced to retreat into the house when the gunman began firing in his direction. At the time, Trugillo described the shooter as “kind of bright with a shirt tied around his head”. During the trial, he also testified that the shooter ran with a limp, although he was unable to see his face.
“When Trugillo and others ventured out to go by where Canill lay on the ground, Trugillo asked Canill what happened and Canill responded in a faint voice, ‘Devon just shoot me’,” the court documents read.
“Trugillo testified that he thought that Canill was referring to their neighbour, Devon, who lived in one of the units upstairs in their fourplex apartment complex. Telita shared Trugillo’s thoughts. Trugillo, in particular, testified that he had known the intended appellant for about twelve to thirteen years. Around 9.50 pm, Corporal Teniel Sherman arrived on the scene of the shooting. She later testified that upon her arrival, she saw a rasta type male in white shirt and dark trousers with gunshot wounds, along with another male holding a towel to his stomach. She identified herself as a police officer and the wounded man told her, ‘Man, Devon from upstairs shot me, officer.’ She further stated that the man appeared to be in pain.”
King was arrested on April 16, 2016. When officers found him that day, he attempted to evade arrest but was unsuccessful. After being detained by Reserve Sergeant 771 Greenslade, King told him: “Yeah, officer, that boy shoot me last week Wednesday. I almost dead.” He was subsequently cautioned and arrested for murder. In an interview with officers the next day, he denied having any involvement in the offence and declined to provide a statement.
That same day, another officer compiled a twelve-man photo line-up which included King’s photograph. The “photo array” was shown to Trugillo, who identified the appellant as the man who shot his brother.
“At the trial, the intended appellant did not give evidence; nor did he call any witnesses on his behalf. However, his case was put to the various witnesses in cross-examination and also could be gleaned from his record of interview, which was not challenged by the defence,” the court documents read. “In his record of interview, he denied committing the offence and he stated that on the day in question he was at his girlfriend’s house and that he left her residence at 8pm to get something to eat from the Kentucky Fried Chicken situated in South Beach. He returned to his girlfriend’s residence at around 8.30pm.”
In his judgment, Justice Issaccs warned judges to be careful when “offering their own interpretation on the evidence”, especially when the facts were “unsupported by the evidence that had been led in the case”.
“I have concluded that this appeal must be allowed due to the failure of the judge to properly direct the jury on the identification evidence and in relation to the dying declaration,” he stated.
“Further, given the poor quality of the identification evidence and the equivocal evidence of Sergeant Greenslade about ‘that boy’, the judge ought to have found that the Crown’s case did not raise a sufficiently strong case to call on the intended appellant to answer and ought to have acceded to the no case to answer application. The appeal is allowed. The conviction is quashed and the sentence set aside. Although I have not heard submissions on the issue of whether the intended appellant ought to be required to undergo a re-trial, I am satisfied that on the state of the Crown’s evidence that there should be no order made for a retrial. In the premises, I direct a judgment and verdict of acquittal to be entered.”