Oct. 2, 2008 — The high-profile case against Anselmo R. Boston, Kamal Thomas and Jahlil Ward — all charged with the June 2007 murder of 21-year-old James "Jamie" Cockayne — is ready for trial, with jury selection scheduled for Friday and opening arguments set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.
Thomas and Boston were arrested last year after witnesses said the two were involved in an argument with Cockayne on the night of his murder on St. John. Boston, who faces first-degree murder, weapons and assault charges in Cockayne's death, has admitted to having a verbal confrontation with "a white guy" who had "kicked his Jeep" earlier that evening, according to a statement obtained by police after the incident.
Boston added that he hit Cockayne in the shoulder and neck with a pool stick, but did not follow when Cockayne left the Front Yard Bar in Cruz Bay a little while later.
In a statement taken shortly after his arrest, Thomas told investigators that he was at the Front Yard Bar from 10 to 11:30 p.m. on the evening of June 19, 2007, and was involved in an argument with Cockayne. The two were later thrown out by the bartender, and alibi witnesses can place Thomas at a nearby beach during the time of Cockayne's murder, said Thomas' former defense attorney, Harold Willocks, at a hearing about a year ago.
New developments in the case recently turned up a third suspect, who was identified by Boston's defense attorney, Michael Joseph, during a hearing held in May. Joseph claimed the third individual — Ward — had contact with Cockayne on the night of his death. An alibi witness can confirm that Ward confessed to the murder, saying that he had "iced the white guy," Joseph said in May.
During another hearing in August, prosecuting attorney Renee Gumbs Carty said Boston has claimed that it was Ward who took the pool stick out of his hand as he was beating Cockayne at the bar. Thomas also said that he and Boston had contact with Ward that night, she added.
Ward was the victim in another, unrelated incident, and the government sent him to the mainland under "semi-protective custody" until he was brought back to the territory and arrested for the murder, Carty said after the August hearing. She explained that Ward was not arrested soon after the incident because there was no "tangible" evidence available to charge him with the murder. New information provided by witnesses and other individuals has changed that, she said.
Virgin Islands Superior Court Judge Brenda J. Hollar has since decided to consolidate the cases against Boston, Thomas and Ward, who will now stand trial together as co-defendants. Ward's defense attorney, Anthony Quinn, has opposed the consolidation, saying that Joseph and Thomas' current attorney Benjamin Currence would submit that his client actually committed the crime — an argument that would force the jury to pick sides.
During a recent pre-trial hearing, prosecutors said that witness testimony would reveal that Boston and Thomas went back to the bar after beating Cockayne, while Ward followed him around the corner and stabbed him several times after attempting to rob him, according to a recent article by the V.I. Daily News.
Hollar has said that any statement made by one defendant against another is not admissible in court. After deciding to consolidate the cases, the judge and the defense attorneys met in a closed hearing to redact incriminating portions of the defendants' police statements, according to the Daily News article.
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