Fatal stabbing aggressive victim justified, court rules – Defendant released after more than three months in jail

POSTED: 09/12/12 2:08 PM

St. Maarten – O’Neil Abraham M.K. became a free man again yesterday afternoon after Judge Tamara Tijhuis ruled that his actions that led to the fatal stabbing of Washington Ellis on May 26 were justified. Because the ruling resulted in the defendant’s release the judge pronounced her verdict already yesterday, instead of on the scheduled date of September 26.

The court considered proven that the 31-year-old defendant stabbed Ellis to death. “The defendant stabbed Ellis several times in the chest and the back, and as a result Ellis died,” the court ruling states.
But the next question the court had to answer was whether the defendant is punishable for the manslaughter. M.K.’s attorney Shaira Bommel said at the trial last week that her client acted out of self defense because he had to defend himself against attacks by the victim. “The victim grabbed the defendant when he attempted to leave the house and attempted several times to strangle him.”

Judge Tijhuis rejected the self defense argument and the version the defendant gave of what happened. The stabbing occurred in the house of the defendant’s former girlfriend who was at the time of the stabbing the victim’s girlfriend. The defendant claimed that Ellis held him in a choke hold and that he almost lost consciousness. While he struggled to free himself he grabbed behind him and took a knife from the kitchen table that he used to stab Ellis twice.
Based on statements made by the girlfriend Judge Tijhuis ruled that there had been no knife on the kitchen table at the moment the defendant claimed he had grabbed it. M.K. also did not have wounds in his neck that would support his claim that Ellis had grabbed him in a choke hold. Thirdly the horizontal stab wound through the victim’s chest bone and heart does not tally with the defendant’s position he claimed to have been in during the stabbing.
But there were other considerations. Ellis was angry and aggressive when he entered the house, he sought the confrontation with the defendant, and attacked him. He also used brute violence against the girl friend and grabbed the defendant by the neck when he wanted to leave. Ellis also attempted to hit the girl with a bucket, but when the defendant attacked him with a knife he crossed the line of necessary self defense, the judge ruled.

The second line of defense – that the defendant had acted under fierce emotional distress caused by Ellis’ actions against him and the girl – fell on fertile ground with the judge. She shared this opinion with the defense and prosecutor Dounia Benammar.
“Due to Ellis’ aggressive behavior towards the defendant and the girl, the fact that Ellis kept seeking the confrontation and that all this took place in a very small house of barely 20 square meters where four adults were present, it has become sufficiently plausible that the defendant acted in a situation that was anxious and threatening for him.”
The fact that the defendant attempted to get away from the situation while the outraged Ellis initiated violence against him and the girl and the fact that the girl cried out for help because Ellis was threatening to kill her, justified the actions M.K. took, the court ruled. “His actions are the direct result of violent emotional distress caused by the earlier attack. This justified that the defendant crossed the line of necessary self defense,” Judge Tijhuis ruled.
The judged dismissed all prosecution against the defendant and ordered his immediate release from detention at the Simpson Bay House of Detention. The defendant spent more than three months behind bars.

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