By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal has ordered a retrial for the man convicted of killing prominent businessman Kurt McCartney while robbing him of his Hummer SUV five years ago.
Appellate President Sir Hartman Longley, along with acting appellate Justices Sir Michael Barnett and Milton Evans, said Thorne Edwards should be retried “as soon as possible” over the October 24, 2013 murder and armed robbery.
The appellate judges said their main reason for ordering the retrial was because the trial judge erred by allowing a witness, whose evidence was the only thing connecting Edwards to the crime, to be screened from the jury.
As such, and given the absence of any other evidence against Edwards, the appellate judges said the credibility of that witness, called “AB”, was “crucial” and was the “main issue” that needed to be determined by the jury.
“In the circumstances of this case we find that the learned trial judge fell into error when he permitted the witness ‘AB’ to give evidence while fully screened,” the appellate judges wrote. “The members of the jury were deprived of the opportunity to observe his demeanour so as to assist with their assessment of his credibility.
“In this case where the case against the appellant turned on the evidence of ‘AB,’ this was crucial.
“…Accordingly, we allow the appeal and quash the convictions on all charges and set aside the sentences imposed and we order that the case be remitted to the Supreme Court for a re-trial as soon as possible.”
On December 14, 2015, a jury took three hours to return verdicts for Edwards and his co-accused after the panel had been excused to deliberate on the evidence.
Edwards was unanimously convicted of murder and was found guilty of armed robbery on a majority verdict of 9-3. His ex-girlfriend and co-accused Lyndera Curry was acquitted of murder but found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter by 11-1. The same count was returned on her conviction for armed robbery.
In June 2016, Edwards was sentenced to 45 years for murdering McCartney and 20 years for robbing the deceased at gunpoint. Curry received seven years for her manslaughter conviction and five years for armed robbery.
Okell Farrington and Sumya Ingraham were acquitted of murder, manslaughter and armed robbery. Businessman and community activist Terry Delancy, who had been accused of being an accessory to the murder after the fact, was acquitted of the charge following the close of the prosecution’s case for legal reasons.
It was alleged that Edwards shot McCartney in the face after he became involved in an argument between Curry and the victim.
The prosecution maintained that McCartney’s body was crushed when Farrington, Ingraham and Curry allegedly rolled over his body as they fled the scene in the McCartney’s Hummer. It was alleged that Edwards ran away after the shooting.
At trial, the jury heard from anonymous witness “AB” who said the pharmacist was arguing with one of two women he was walking with, Curry and Ingraham, and that one of the women signalled to a man who approached and shoved McCartney before shooting the victim.
However, a 12-year-old witness told the jury that there was a single assailant who startled McCartney as he was trying to enter his vehicle, shot him in the head and then sped off in the victim’s car after rolling over him.
At the time, the prosecution had asked now deceased Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs to impose the maximum penalties – death and life sentences – on the law books for the accused.
The prosecution said the shooting of McCartney, an unarmed man, in the head and crushing nearly every bone in his body with his own vehicle to ensure his death, warranted such sentences.
However, the judge noted at the time that the seriousness of the offences had to be balanced against the fact both convicts were young and had no prior criminal history when the October 2013 incident occurred.