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February 13, 2009
Youth acquitted of manslaughter

The verdict is out! One man walked free, but the case in Hazel-Ann Roberts’ mind, is far from closed.{{more}}

As she wailed in grief outside the precincts of the High Court asking the question, “Who kill Ozo, who kill me son?” – not even the hugs by her relatives could ease the pain and bring closure to the tragedy that has been plaguing her since 2007.

On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 19-year-old, Drexel “Jesse” Andrews walked away a free man after being acquitted by a nine-member jury of manslaughter in the shooting death of his cousin, Franco “Ozo” Roberts on March 7, 2007 at Glen. It was alleged that Roberts died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head while he and Andrews were alone in a bedroom taking pictures of them holding a gun.

From the moment the unanimous verdict was announced, one of the relatives of Andrews got up from her seat and pumped her fists in the air, then went outside to inform the other relatives about his acquittal.

The medical evidence given by Dr. Ronald Child, Consultant Surgical Pathologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, pointed out that in the post mortem report the bullet struck the deceased on the top of his skull and exited the back of his head. Dr Child added that the entry wound would have had to be fired from a distance of approximately four feet away from the head of Roberts. Child also suggested that the gunshot could not have been self-inflicted.

Hardly showing any sign of relief on his face, Andrews exited the glass pane doors of the court into the rapture of his family.

When cross-examining Dr. Child, attorney Ronald Marks suggested that the wound Roberts sustained may have been as a result of a bullet ricochet, since the wound was oblong in nature.

In the jury’s absence, Marks made a no-case submission stating that the prosecution failed to make a case against his client. The young attorney added that there was no direct evidence from the prosecution that tagged Andrews to Roberts’ death. He said that the Crown was relying on circumstantial evidence and the medical evidence. “All the evidence by the prosecution only shows that Jesse was in the same room at the time when Roberts received the shot,” Marks added. He mentioned that the evidence tendered by the doctor supported the exculpatory statement of Andrews that it was Roberts who was in possession of the gun when it was discharged.

Attorney Marks made note of the fact that there was no forensic testing done on the nine-millimeter gun, the 380 spent shell and the fragment that was removed from the body of the deceased, linking his client to Roberts’ death. He said that the prosecution was leading the court to speculate and that the mater should be stopped immediately since no tangible evidence was adduced to convict his client. His no case-submission was however dismissed by the Justice Gertel Thom.

Responding to Marks’ submission, Director of Public Prosecution Colin Williams, told the court that it did not matter if forensic evidence was carried out on the gun. “What is the point of forensics? The defendant admitted that he did have the gun in his hand,” Williams said. The DPP also pointed out that when Andrews telephoned Roberts’ mother the day of the incident, he only told her “Franco get shoot” and when she asked him how he got shot, he ended the call. “Once the jury can find that he acted recklessly then this is a case that must go to the jury.

Venting his feelings, the DPP told SEARCHLIGHT that he was highly surprised by the outcome of the verdict and that the jury’s decision was based on emotions. “It was clear that the jury was not listening to the evidence clearly,” Williams added. However, Williams says his hands are tied and would not be able to appeal. Only the decision of the judge can be appealed.

Just before Andrews left the witness dock, Justice Thom told Andrews that he alone knew how Roberts met his death since they were both in the room alone. “I am going to tell you what Roberts’ mother told you the day of the incident when you were at the police station, “Please take care of yourself,” Thom said.