By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE court of Appeal handed down an historic ruling yesterday when it allowed the appeal of Crown prosecutors, who for the first time challenged the acquittal of a man accused of murder.
Last year’s amendment to the Court of Appeal Act allows the Crown to challenge an acquittal of murder if it believes an error has been made in law.
Appellate Court president, Justice Anita Allen, with Justices Christopher Blackman and Stanley John, ruled that Justice Vera Watkins of the Supreme Court made an error in law when she directed jurors to acquit Tyrone Francis Jr of murder on November 15, 2011.
Francis was accused of intentionally causing the death of Jonathan Linden on October 10, 2009.
During the trial last November, prosecutors alleged that he intentionally ran over Jonathan Linden with his car as he walked along Blue Hill Road South early on that October morning.
The prosecution claimed that Francis got into an argument with Linden and his friends, Jerome Charlton and Elvardo Johnson, while at the Royal Castle Restaurant.
However, Francis’ defence team argued that Linden’s death resulted from a traffic accident. He claimed he lost control of the car when Linden and others threw objects at it.
Yesterday, attorney Murrio Ducille argued this before the Appeal Court. He said he did not think Justice Watkins made an error in law concerning the evidence because, as he noted, the prosecution’s evidence did not prove there was any intention on the part of his client to murder Linden.
However, Justice Allen and her co-Justices were of a different view.
“The evidence ought to have been left to the jury,” Justice Allen said, adding that it was open to the jury to accept what the defendant said happened.
Justice John questioned the attorney about his view on the intention being a necessary ingredient for the case.
Mr Ducille said that concerning the charge of murder, “there must be a specific intention to kill.”
Justice Allen referred to the evidence of Francis running away from the scene of the incident.
Mr Ducille answered that this occurred “because they set upon him to beat him up.”
“Was it not open to the jury to draw inference from him running away from the scene?” Justice John asked.
“To say what M’lord?” Mr Duciile asked.
Mr Ducille maintained that – based on the evidence and from his client’s position – there was no “intention” during that incident.
However, Justice John persisted that “intention can be inferred from the circumstances of the case.” He and the judges referred to the altercation earlier that night.
Mr Ducille maintained that the judge did not err in law, though his position prompted Justice Blackman to note that “the fact that it was determined in your favour doesn’t make it right.”
“It is a matter for the jury to determine,” he said.
Regarding the judge preventing a senior officer from giving evidence at the trial, Mr Ducille argued that parts of his evidence, specifically the officer speaking to the victim about the point of impact in the absence of his client, was hearsay evidence.
In response, Crown prosecutor Neil Brathwaite did not say much other than to rely on his submissions to the court.
The court, having heard submissions from both sides, allowed the Crown’s appeal and ruled that Justice Watkins made an error in law when she directed the jury to acquit Francis of murder following a no-case submission.
The verdict was set aside and the matter was sent back to the Supreme Court.
Francis Jr and his attorney left court following the ruling. Francis remains on bail.