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Murder Charge Compared To Hurricane Matthew

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

A LAWYER likened his client’s predicament of facing a murder charge to the recent devastation left by Hurricane Matthew, which he said had turned the country “upside down.”

Roberto Reckley was addressing the Supreme Court yesterday where he argued that Ricardo Culmer did not intentionally crush Alpheus Bevans to death with his truck on July 17, 2015.

Culmer, a 39-year-old fisherman, has denied the murder charge during his trial before Senior Justice Vera Watkins.

The prosecution alleges that Culmer was provoked into the action after Bevans threw coins into his truck that struck him in the face as he drove east along Poinciana Drive.

Mr Reckley, in addressing the 12-member panel, thanked the jurors for appearing to court to continue the trial notwithstanding the lasting impact felt across the country by Hurricane Matthew.

“What we went through is somewhat symbolic of what is going on with Mr Culmer,” the defence lawyer said.

“Within a few moments, his life was turned upside down. This hurricane which passed through the country has turned it upside down,” he added.

Culmer’s lawyer told the jury that they saw his client take the witness stand on Tuesday and saw his demeanour.

Culmer testified 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 the street 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.

“There was nothing said by him that undermined what he said to the officer on the scene. It’s the same thing he told the investigating officer,” the jury heard.

“He’s a 39-year-old fisherman who spent 15 years in that profession. He’s never been convicted of an offence or been before the courts. When I say a hurricane has hit his life, it’s never been more applicable. What happened on July 17, 2015 was nothing more than an unfortunate, unintentional accident,” Mr Reckley stressed.

Mr Reckley said none of the prosecution’s witnesses called to give evidence in the trial “has hinted that it was intentional.”

“One of the elements to the charge of murder is intent. Based on the evidence led, there’s nothing that speaks to intention. Mr Culmer doesn’t have anything to prove. He didn’t have to take the stand yesterday. The burden of proof was on the prosecution,” he added.

Mr Reckley further stressed his client’s right to presumption of innocence.

“What is in dispute is not only the issue of intention but also provocation. The bystanders can say what they saw but they can’t speak to his motivations or intentions. You can only get that from Mr Culmer whose sworn testimony is before you,” the jury heard.

The defence lawyer said this case was not one that involved the accused pointing a gun or knife at the victim, looking them in the eye, proceeding to pull the trigger or stab them and then saying “I didn’t mean to do it.”

“In this particular case, we have him reversing for a short time where a bus is also in the vicinity. And we all know that reversing requiring a different set of skills and concentration than moving forward,” the lawyer further argued.

Mr Reckley said the prosecution’s own witnesses attested to the fact that his client assisted in trying to get the truck off Bevans and remained on the scene until police arrived.

He invited the jury to acquit his client.

Uel Johnson, in response for the prosecution, asked the jury to recall the September 29 testimony of Jevan White, cousin of the deceased.

Mr White testified that he and his cousin were at a restaurant and within moments, he heard the sounds of a horn and the slamming of brakes. He then saw his cousin standing in the door of the bus and the vehicle smashed into him.

Mr Johnson said the jury themselves have already heard all of the evidence that the prosecution presented to them to establish certain elements of the murder charge.

“Rosalee Bevans, wife of the deceased, confirmed his death. She said she went to the hospital on July 17 where her husband was fighting for his life and the following day, she’d identified his body at the morgue,” the prosecutor said.

“Dr Caryn Sands (pathologist) performed the autopsy to confirm the cause of the death which she ruled as blunt force trauma. She said the injuries he sustained was consistent with being hit by a vehicle,” Mr Johnson said.

The third element, the prosecutor said, was proving that Bevans died within a year and a day of the incident, which had already been established.

The fourth element concerned the person behind the incident and Mr Johnson said the accused “was responsible for the killing.”

“All of the witnesses who went on the stand were unchallenged in their identification of him,” the jury heard.

“I come now to this issue you must decide and that his intention. Had Mr Culmer only been driving east on Poinciana Drive, we may not be here today. However, on July 17, 2016, I’m not sure if somebody was crossing the street, but something happened at the junction of Souse King,” Mr Johnson said.

“Somebody struck him with coins and he stopped his truck. 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,” the prosecutor added.

“Jevan White said he reversed with a high rate of speed. 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.

The prosecutor argued that Mr Culmer’s actions were not only intentional but there was no legal justification for what occurred.”

“Despite the fact that he may have thrown those coins, Mr Bevans was entitled to his life,” the prosecutor stressed.

Senior Justice Watkins is expected to begin her summation of the evidence today before excusing the jury to deliberate and return a verdict.

Tai Pinder is also defending Culmer with Mr Reckley.

Rosalee Ferguson is assisting Mr Johnson in prosecuting the case.

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