Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Brothers not guilty in 2016 gas station murder trial

Published:Thursday | October 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

O'Neil and O'Brian Walters, the brothers who were on trial for the murder of Kahni Erskine following a brazen daylight attack by gunmen at a St James gas station in 2016, were found not guilty yesterday afternoon in the St James Circuit Court.

The verdict was handed down by the seven-member jury following five days of testimony from eight prosecution witnesses, including three police statements, which were read to the court in the absence of the officers. The trial had started on Tuesday, October 9.

The Walters brothers were accused of taking part in the daring daylight shooting that took place at the gas station on September 22, 2016, and which was caught on video. They bore calm expressions when the verdict was announced yesterday, and remained calm even as they were escorted out by police officers.

Prior to the verdict, the Walters brothers' attorney, Christopher Townsend, made a no-case submission in which he noted that one civilian witness was treated as a hostile witness after denying that he had submitted statements to the police implicating the defendants.

"The witness was treated as hostile, and his evidence is that he knows not who shot at him. He denied giving the statement and what was in it, save for bits and pieces of it, and the Crown has sought to impugn the credibility of their own witness," said Townsend.

"The Crown sought to rely at the last minute on the testimony of the detective inspector in the case. His evidence was that the persons in the video look like the persons he knows as O'Neil and O'Brian Walters, and that is insufficient in law."

Presiding High Court Justice Sharon George subsequently instructed the jury to return the not-guilty verdict despite the prosecution's declaration that the video evidence and the statements of the civilian witnesses implicated the defendants.

"You have footage that does not show the faces of the persons. Identification is your first hurdle, and if you can't cross that hurdle, what you have is of no value," George said in responding to the prosecution's submission.

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com