Two men charged with the 2016 murder of a baby were acquitted this week after the previously absent key witness gave evidence.
Martin ‘Jahson’ James and Recardo ‘Shrek’ McFee were previously charged with causing the death of 10-month-old Mozari Lee on October 7, 2016, in Glen. They were also charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding the baby’s parents, Shelly-Ann Durham, and Mozart Lee. Further, they were charged with the attempted murder of Monty Hillocks.
The trial of the two men ended on the same day it started, with Monty Hillocks being the only witness called to the stand.
Hillocks told of the attack on his life on October 7, 2016, describing that he was at the house of his technician friend, Mozart Lee, having a sound system installed in his car. He was there all day, Hillocks said, assisting Lee. Suddenly someone came from behind him, and fired several shots, causing him to run.
“I didn’t see anyone,” he said, “I saw a shadow.” He ran into the road, down the hill and into someone’s yard, leaving his phone behind.
Hillocks didn’t come out until he heard a familiar voice, and he paid someone $50 to take him away from that place.
He said it was only afterwards that he learnt that Lee, his girlfriend and baby were shot.
The day after, Hillocks went to the police and gave them a statement about the incident. “I told them what I heard. I didn’t see anything, I told them what I heard. I told them I saw Martin and Shrek, which was a lie,” Hillocks stated.
The witness was being assisted by Acting DPP Sejilla McDowall while giving evidence, and he told her that he gave that statement to the police because he was fearful for his life.
Hillocks said he lied because, “Someone died, that could have been me.” He continued that the statement he gave was speculation, based on what he had heard.
The questioning turned to when the case was at the Serious Offences Court and had been thrown out. At that time, Hillocks never turned up to give evidence.
It came out that Hillocks had apparently told the police the statement was untrue since before the case was at that court.
After hearing on the radio that McFee and James were arrested again, and that he was the key witness, Hillocks told his lawyer to write an affidavit.
He said he told the lawyer, “I want to clear the people involved because they’re innocent.”
Justice Brian Cottle said he had to clarify this statement, because he liked his notes to make sense to him. He asked that if Hillocks didn’t see who it was, how he could be sure that McFee and James were innocent.
“Well I don’t know,” the witness stated.
The Acting DPP then made an application for their key witness to be treated as a hostile witness, so that she could cross examine him.
She asked him if he hadn’t told the police that he was fearful of coming to court and that was why he hadn’t previously. He replied that he had not. She also brought up the fact that Hillocks’ house was shot at when the two defendants were arrested for the second time.
At the end, Hillocks reiterated that the statement was a lie. He told Justice Cottle that he didn’t know who shot him, “I’m still fearful, my whole life has changed.”
McDowall then threw in the towel, indicating that she would call no further witnesses.
The jury was instructed that they should return a not guilty verdict on all counts.
Cottle commented that it was a ‘sad day’ when persons could feel that they could “go on a campaign of terror,” and it could result in the death of an infant in his mother’s arms. Having said this, he said that the prosecution was quite proper in deciding not to continue. He spoke of witnesses “reconciling in their own conscience.”
“My name and my reputation had been tarnished because of this. My family been suffering. My children and them fall back in school,” James told reporters after walking out a free man.
“It’s 14 months I been languishing in jail. It’s a terrible place round there, bugs biting you everyday, no proper food,” he continued.
His co-accused, McFee left discreetly through the back door, before getting into a van and leaving.
Representing McFee was Attorney Israel Bruce, and lawyer Grant Connell represented James.