Young St. Maartener elated after manslaughter acquittal

POSTED: 06/3/11 6:58 PM

Innocent defendant spent more than five months in jail

St. Maarten – Johan Alberto R., a 20-year-old St. Maartener, jumped from his chair in the court room yesterday, bowed and exclaimed, “thank you Lord!” after Judge mr. M. Keppels acquitted him of attempted manslaughter on Ramon Gumbs on June 8 of last year. The defendant spent more than five months behinds bars since his arrest on December 16 of last year. In spite of the acquittal, R.’s attorney mr. B.B. Brooks was outraged because it took so long to bring the case to trial. Her client will most likely claim compensation for the time he spent unjustified in jail. At 50 guilders a day, he could receive around 8,350 guilders (a bit more than $4,600) from the state.
Gumbs sustained a bullet wound to his right leg on the day of the shooting near the Jump Up Casino. When filed a complaint with the police, he identified the defendant, known under his rapper name Crucial, as the shooter. Gumbs knew the defendant from 2008 when they both spent time at the Pointe Blanche prison.
But there was no supporting evidence to corroborate Gumbs’ claim that Crucial had fired the shots at him. The defendant claimed his innocence from the get go and in court he maintained this position.
R.’s attorney asked Judge Keppels to study the video footage from the casino, because this would show that her client had not been stalking Gumbs that night but that instead he had been having fun gambling. Technical problems made it however impossible for the Judge to view the images. The defendant asked the court to proceed with the trial, saying that he’d been already too long in jail for something he did not do.
Prosecutor mr. G. van der Wulp was brief in her demand. “The plaintiff says that this is the man who shot at him. It is a clear statement that leaves no room for doubt. The defendant was in the casino, but the video footage shows nothing abnormal, and it is uncertain if we can place the defendant at the spot from where the shots have been fired.”
For lack of evidence, mr. Van der Wulp therefore asked the court to acquit the defendant.
Attorney Brooks did not disagree, thought she was displeased with the fact that it took so long to bring the case to trial, to finally hear the prosecution ask for an acquittal. Brooks pointed out that the name of another possible suspect had surfaced in the investigation: Gerard Richards, a 30-year-old heavy machine operator who was sentenced in January to 11 months imprisonment for stealing from Stefanie’s Mini market in Middle Region. Richards got violent during the theft and he got into a fight with store owner Yuanquan Z. who threw a cup of Hot Power drain cleaner in his face. Z. was found guilty but not punished because the court accepted his plea of self-defense.
Brooks said that Richards had not been heard as a suspect in the shooting, even though prosecutor Ridderbeks had already in December instructed the police to interrogate him. “They claimed they could not find him, but he is my client too and he spends a lot of time at the police station,” Brooks fumed.
Judge Keppels did not waste a lot of words on her ruling. She agreed with the prosecutor’s conclusion that there is insufficient evidence against the defendant and she acquitted him.

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