“You’re free to go.” Sweeter words have not been spoken to Roneaf Burke, who hails from Byrea since criminal charges were leveled against him, almost 2 years ago, for causing the chopping death of Wayne Fitzgerald Gregory Morris. Morris was gruesomely murdered on October 26, 2018 in his home village, Byera.
Defense attorney, Grant Connell, successfully litigated on Burke’s behalf over the 18 month-long preliminary investigation. Connell tabled a no case to answer submission, citing the second limb of Galbraith, which Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne upheld.
Lawyer Grant Conell and Burke outside the Serious offense court
“The iota of evidence presented was tenuous at best,” Connell told the Court while adding, “and the prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case. Therefore the accused should be discharged. It is very unfortunate he had to be in jail for over a year and a half.”
Since Senior Prosecutor Aldophus Delplesche declined to respond to the defense’s submission we caught up with him for his perspective on how the case unfolded.
“Sometimes the prosecutors would receive case files that would have gone through certain scrutiny and you would see certain evidence on paper but the way the evidence is on paper it may not come out that way in Court. This case in point was a touch and go case. Meaning the evidence was not clear cut – it was a 50/50 case.
“Then the way the evidence was adduced and then cross examination can shake certain evidence if it is not strong. And I must say, I think Mr. Connell did a good job in the way he conducted the defense’s case. The way he conducted the cross examination, he was able to bring out certain things that created doubt and some tenuousness in the prosecution’s case…. What I would say is that the evidence was incurably weak and Mr. Connell capitalized on that as any good defense attorney would do.”
He also explained Connell’s choice not cross-examine the investigating officer Sgt. Alexander who presented the last testimony in the legally mandated preliminary investigations. He said, “the case did not rest on the investigating officer. His evidence was just a formality. The witnesses on whom the case rested, he cross examined those.”
Delplesche, who has been on active prosecutorial duty since his return from studies about a decade ago, acknowledged that they failed to make out a prima facie case, “whereby a case is made out to put before a jury where a jury – if properly directed – can convict. So the Magistrate in her deliberation came to that conclusion and she discharged the accused.”
As for Burke, the former accused murderer, he told us, “I feel good that I out of jail because I’ve been in prison for 19 months now; accused of this murder and I keep wondering why it have to be like this and they don’t have any evidence.”
Playing money making basketball and furthering his studies – overseas – are his immediate plans. But although the Serious Offences Court discharged him from the prosecution’s current case, Delplesche warned, he can be brought back to answer charges given that the p. i. is not a trial and therefore the double jeopardy principle would not apply.
The youngster is, however, free to pursue his dreams as he see fit as, “at this stage there is nothing that would allow us to stop him from leaving the State” pending new and firmer evidence – the Senior Prosecutor explained.