By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FISHERMAN'S defence that he accidentally knocked over a man during traffic was accepted by a jury on Friday.
The jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict concerning the murder charge faced by Ricardo Culmer, 39, who had stood trial for three weeks before Senior Justice Vera Watkins. He was accused of intentionally crushing Alpheus Bevans to death with his truck on July 17, 2015.
The prosecution alleged that Culmer was provoked into the action after Bevans threw coins that struck him in the face as he drove his truck east along Poinciana Drive.
However, Culmer attributed the action to the confusion, fright and a mistake in pressing the gas pedal when he attempted to reverse his1995 Chevrolet Sierra truck.
The jury, after two hours of deliberation, returned 12-0 not guilty verdict.
The judge asked the jury's foreman if they had considered the issue of provocation and he said the panel had.
At trial, the jury heard from a number of bystanders, including Jevan White, who said that he and his cousin were at a restaurant and within moments heard the sounds of a horn and the slamming of brakes. He then saw his cousin standing in the door of a bus and the vehicle smashed into him.
Culmer gave sworn testimony and said that he was headed to Hospital Lane to drop a friend and her daughter home when he saw a man crossing the street.
He slowed down his 1995 Chevrolet Sierra truck to let the man cross and when he continued, the man took a handful of coins and struck him.
Culmer, who claimed he was scared and confused by the action, said that his passengers screamed and he started to reverse, accidentally hitting the gas pedal.
He only realised what had occurred when it was drawn to his attention by bystanders who began filming with their cellphones.
In closing addresses on Thursday, Uel Johnson reminded the jury that when the accused was struck with the coins "Mr Culmer did not stop, come out of his vehicle and asked what was going on.
"Jennie Dames, who was his passenger, and all of the other witnesses, said within four to five seconds, he immediately slammed into the door of the bus near him. I don't believe a six mile per hour speed can do that much damage as seen in the photos you have of the scene Jevan White said he reversed with a high rate of speed," the jury heard.
"As a result of what he did, should he walk away free because someone threw some coins at him? Mr Bevans can't say if he did because he's dead," Mr Johnson stressed.
Culmer's lawyer Roberto Reckley stressed that "what happened on July 17, 2015 was nothing more than an unfortunate, unintentional accident".
Mr Reckley said the prosecution's witnesses attested to the fact that his client assisting in trying to get the truck off Bevans and remained at the scene until police arrived.
In her summation of the evidence on Friday, Senior Justice Watkins told the jury that "none of your primary responsibilities is deciding who is telling the truth".
"When each of the witnesses took the stand, you were to pay attention to the witness' ability to recall events important to the case, the time lapse between the incident and the testimony, their demeanour when answering questions, their ability to express themselves, the veracity of their evidence, their potential interest for giving evidence and their integrity. The latter would be based on what they said and what you've heard throughout the trial," the judge added.
"Each of you have sworn an oath to return a true verdict and you must be true to your oath. When you return to the jury room for deliberations, you must give your own views and listen to the views of your fellow jurors. However, there must be no monopoly on who is responsible for discussions," the judge also stressed.
Senior Justice Watkins noted that one of the most important issues for them to determine was intention and that when considering the evidence from various witnesses and the defendant himself, "you must look at his actions before the incident, during the incident and after".
"The Crown does not have to prove or produce a motive as it is not an ingredient on the element of murder. It is sufficient if intent is formed within seconds, the spur of the moment or the spur of temper. What was the intention of the defendant when he was reversing his truck?" the judge said.
"There's no direct evidence of a verbal expression of intent to kill. However, the prosecution invites you to infer this from his actions," the judge added.
Tai Pinder assisted Mr Reckley in Culmer's defence. Rosalee Ferguson assisted Mr Johnson in prosecuting the case.