By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWO women opted to remain silent yesterday to allegations that two years ago they murdered teenage mother Breanna Mackey in an argument over an $80 smartphone.
Zaria Burrows and Dervinique Edwards opted not to give any evidence or call any witnesses on their behalf to counter claims they murdered the 19-year-old in January 2018. Their decisions came moments before their respective attorneys made closing addresses to the jury, urging them to acquit their clients of Mackey’s murder.
Additionally, the attorneys urged the jury to reject the prosecution’s assertion that Burrows and Edwards acted in concert with Mackey’s actual killer, Thea Williams.
Burrows’ attorney Devard Francis, asserted that contrary to the crown’s case against his client and Edwards, Williams acted “unilaterally and on her own” in killing Mackey.
The defence attorney conceded that Mackey’s murder was a “senseless crime”, and that it was “silly” to have fought over something as “frivolous” as a cellphone.
However, Mr Francis said the blame for Mackey’s death lies squarely at Williams’ feet, something, he said, was truly unfortunate because the phone didn’t even belong to her.
“(Burrows and Edwards) cannot be penalised for someone who made a unilateral decision on her own,” Mr Francis said, adding that Williams acted on her own because in her mind, “she had a point to prove”.
Burrows and Edwards are on trial over allegations they murdered Mackey on January 25, 2018. According to the evidence, Mackey was killed because five girls who were supposed to be her friends wanted her to pay for a broken $80 Huawei cellphone that belonged to one of them.
According to reports from police, shortly before 6pm that day, police control room was contacted about reports that a woman was stabbed in the Key West Street area off Cordeaux Avenue. Police officers were dispatched to investigate.
Upon their arrival, a woman, identified as the victim’s sister, Latisha Woodside, directed officers to a brown and white apartment complex on the eastern side of Key West Street. On the porch, just in front of door number nine, officers discovered Mackey, semi-conscious, lying face down and suffering from four stab wounds to her upper back and two stab wounds to her right arm.
Mackey, who had turned 19 the day before, was taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital where she died around 8.28pm.
According to the record of interviews of both women, conducted two days after the incident, Burrows was driving her car in the area of Key West Street with Williams, Edwards, Davanya Lawes, Yolika Domesle, aka “Gabby”, and Matia Sylverain as passengers.
Edwards said when Williams spotted Mackey, she started saying: “See Breanna, see Breanna on the corner,” before asking Edwards to open the car door and let her out. Edwards said her door wouldn’t open, so Williams got out by the door on the opposite side.
Domesle, who was seated in the front passenger seat, then got out of the vehicle and threw a bottle at Mackey, which hit her in her face. Burrows said after that, Mackey’s older sister, who according to the evidence, was Nafetera Brown, consequently told her sister to run, which she did. Williams and the others gave chase.
Burrows said Mackey ended up running in a yard and called out the name “Justin”. While fleeing, however, Mackey slipped and fell in some mud, according to Burrows. Williams then grabbed her by the head.
Edwards, in her interview, said she saw when Williams “snatched” Mackey, and said she thought she was punching the victim. However, she said when Williams drew back her hand, she realised she was brandishing a knife.
When asked how many times she saw Williams stab Mackey, Edwards replied: “All I know is a lot, I couldn’t keep up.”
“That’s when I told Zaria ‘she jooking (sic) her, let’s go around here,’” Edwards said in her interview.
While that was happening, Sylverain was kicking Mackey, while Lawes was running in the road as if she was making a beeline for Mackey. However, Williams had since stabbed Mackey, and so Lawes ran back to Burrows’ car.
The other girls eventually made their way to the car, which was when Burrows realised Williams had a knife on her the entire time. After Williams drew all of their attention to the bloody weapon, Burrows ordered her to throw the knife out of her car. Burrows then dropped the girls off at their respective homes.
When asked if the group was driving around with the sole purpose of finding Mackey, Burrows said no. Burrows, as well as Edwards, also denied any prior knowledge that the other girls wanted to fight the deceased.
The pair also said they never heard Williams say she wanted to harm Mackey.
However, both women acknowledged that one of the other girls, Domesle, had a beef with Mackey that stemmed from an $80 Huawei cellphone.
Yesterday, Mr Francis focused on that bit of the evidence, asserting that nothing in the Crown’s case suggests his client or Edwards knew of a “master plan” to kill Mackey.
This, he said, was evidenced by the fact that moments before her death, Mackey and Ms Brown, according to the latter’s evidence, went for a walk in order to deliver a piece of cake to Mackey’s friend not too far from where she lived in their mother’s house on Palm Beach Street.
Mr Francis said that neither his client nor Edwards, and by extension none of the other women, could have “hatched” a plan to kill her, as Mackey’s decision to deliver the piece of cake to her friend was contextually “spur of the moment”.
However, Mr Francis referred to another bit of the evidence he claimed proves his client and Edwards’s innocence—the evidence of a 14-year-old junior high school student who witnessed the stabbing.
The teenager testified that from about 12 feet away, he saw how Williams stabbed Mackey in her shoulder, back and rear end, while three other unidentified girls picked up rocks and bottles from off the ground and used those objects to pummel the deceased.
The little boy was not able to say if Edwards and Burrows were involved in the actual attack. The only thing he could say was that the driver, who never left the vehicle, looked “tomboyish”.
Yesterday, Mr Francis accepted that the boy was referring to his client when he described a “tomboyish” driver. Nonetheless, the attorney said that meant his client played no part in the crime.
Mr Francis also observed that the teen witness said he didn’t see anyone with a knife until Williams pulled one out when she was within striking distance. That, Mr Francis asserted, proved that no one else in the car knew Williams had the knife, nor did they know what she was thinking.
Mr Francis further pointed to Burrows’ ROI, and the evidence of the investigating officer, Sergeant Makelle Pinder, in which Burrows only realised Mackey was stabbed after Williams got back in her car and told her and the others: “Look at all this blood on my knife.”
Up to that point, the evidence was that Burrows and Edwards told Sgt Pinder that they thought Williams was “punching” Mackey when in fact she was repeatedly stabbing her with a kitchen knife.
Mr Francis asserted that the only thing his client and Edwards by extension were guilty of was actually being present when the incident occurred.
“Were they stupid for being there? Yes,” Mr Francis said to the jury. “Were they silly for even quarreling over a phone? Yes. Were they silly for even having an issue? Yes. But are they guilty of murder and being concerned together? No.
“...We know who had the knife. We know who did the stabbing. We know who did the killing. We know who took the life of (Breanna).”
Meanwhile, Edwards’ attorney Eleanor Albury, in her closing address, echoed many of Mr Francis’s submissions. She charged that based on the evidence led, her client is effectively absolved of any responsibility for the attack as there was no common design to attack Mackey.
Ms Albury said there was nothing in her client’s ROI that remotely suggested that Edwards committed the offence of which she is charged. Ms Albury added that there was no evidence that Edwards encouraged the mobbing, or even got out of the car to participate in the attack.
The case continues today.