Serbian court hands Ffriend retrial - Judge dismisses initial verdict against Jamaican basketballer
A Serbian Appeals Court has ordered a retrial of the vehicular manslaughter case against Jamaican basketball player, Kimani Ffriend, citing mistakes made by the judge who heard the initial trial, which concluded last year with the Jamaican getting a three-year sentence.
The 36-year-old Ffriend, who had been in custody since November 2012 and under house arrest since August 2013, had his ankle bracelet removed late last week and is free to move about while he awaits a new trial date.
However, he is to report to the police on the first and 15th of the month.
There were no available details on whether there were other conditions of Ffriend's freedom, as his lawyers have not yet received official documentation from the appeals court.
He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in September 2014 for the death of Nevena Dragutinovic, a 30-year-old account executive. She was struck by a car being driven by the Jamaican along France Street in Belgrade at about 4 a.m. Saturday, November 3, 2012, shortly after she alighted from a taxi that had reportedly stopped in the middle of the road.
Her boyfriend and sister were also passengers in the cab from which she alighted and testified against Ffriend in court.
Ffriend, speaking exclusively to The Gleaner, said his lawyer explained that the appeals court ordering a retrial could work to his benefit.
"He said me going back was a positive thing. He said the appeal judges realised that mistakes were made and the first judge has to correct them because the procedure was not fair to me," Ffriend said.
The Gleaner understands that the appeals court threw out the first verdict, which could mean that if Ffriend is found guilty after retrial, he could face a more severe sentence, but in practice, he is likely to end up with the same sentence or a reduced one.
However, because of the ruling of the appeals court, Ffriend's legal team has the wind at their backs as the prosecution's case has been weakened by the ruling.