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Feb 21, 2002

Welcome beats murder rap

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A public that just yesterday rose up in frustration at the growing menace of crime, will have little to cheer about today, as the man charged with the cold-blooded murder of millionaire heiress Therese Blake, has been found not guilty. That verdict, in the trial of Ernel Welcome, was reached without any deliberation by the jury, as at the eleventh hour Supreme Court Justice John Gonzales directed the twelve jurors to make that decision following a no case submission by the defence. That same submission was made a week ago, however, and overruled. Thus the surprise in the courtroom today, when instead of summing up and sending the case to the jury, the same Judge Gonzales had a change of heart, deciding that the evidence presented by the prosecution could not sustain a guilty verdict. News 5′s Ann-Marie Williams was on hand and spoke to lawyers for both sides.

Simeon Sampson, Welcome’s Attorney

“Justice has been done according to the evidence. Throughout the evidence from the prosecutor’s witness there was only one cry: resemble, resemble, resemble, similar, similar, look like, look like. No one identified my client and linked him with the crime scene. That was what made the day for the defence.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Because of that, you put forward a no case submission a long time ago, basically saying that he cannot be identified, strike the case out. The judge actually went on after that, your client made a dock statement and the trial continued. Today at the eleventh-hour, he said there’s no case to answer. What’s going on?”

Simeon Sampson

“I think that…well I’ll tell you what, I must give maximum credit to the prosecutor. She was elegant, professional, hardworking, but a bit too academic. She had a lot of law, but little facts, and that was where the defence won out. We didn’t need law, but facts were in our favour.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“But I’m saying, why did the judge wait until this time to do that?”

Simeon Sampson

“He reconsidered his position, that’s all. A judge is always free to do that. He can always think over his…he can overrule himself, so long as the case has not yet come to an end; and that was all that happened.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“I could have been done a long time ago, you will admit?”

Simeon Sampson

“I agree with you, but he has just said today that after all, upon serious reconsideration, there was no evidence at all to go to the jury and he directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty.”

Cheryl-Lynn Branker-Taitt, Prosecutor

“One of our main witnesses, although he appeared in the first few days of the trial, suddenly he went missing, he could not be found at all by police. The prosecution asked for time and then asked for time again. The judge gave us time in the beginning, but eventually, quite properly so, he forced the prosecution to close its case.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“You think with all the evidence you put forward, a jury properly directed could have made a conviction?”

Cheryl-Lynn Branker-Taitt

“Well if you had listened to the response to the no case submission, which lasted from 9:30 to 12:00, you would have realised that was exactly what the prosecution position was. And certainly, if at any stage of the prosecution case, the prosecution had felt that there was insufficient evidence to go to the jury, the prosecution would have been ethically bound not to respond to the no case submission. And had I really felt that I would have done that, but I do believe that there was sufficient evidence to have gone to the jury. But it is for the judge to decide and he has decided otherwise, so the prosecution will have to live with it for now.”

With its prime suspect acquitted, the Police Department once again finds itself on the short end of a high profile murder case. For the public, sleep will not come easy, as a killer and his accomplices walk the streets with apparent impunity. Meanwhile, the three children of Therese Blake will try their best to grow up without a mother.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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