Suspects offer apologies during King-murder trial

PHILIPSBURG--The two-day hearing in the King-murder case continued Wednesday with the attorneys pleading on behalf of the three suspects in this high-profile murder case. Their clients offered their apologies and condolences to family members at the close of yesterday's session.

Seeing that suspects M.K.J. (29) from Jamaica, J.C.M. (18) from St. Maarten and J.J.W. (21) from Guyana had largely confessed to the six charges on their indictments, their defence lawyers mainly focussed on technicalities.
The charges include the murders of Thelma and Michael King; theft with violence of the Kings, which resulted in their deaths; deprivation of liberty of Thelma King; armed robbery of Happy Star Chinese Restaurant in Cannegieter Street on September 19, 2012; and laundering of the proceeds of both armed robberies.
On Tuesday, the Prosecutor's Office demanded life imprisonment for M.K.J. He was, among other charges, held responsible for the double homicide of US tourists Michael and Thelma King in their Ocean Club apartment in Cupecoy on September 19, 2012. Both victims were stabbed to death.
J.C.M., whom the Prosecutors consider an accomplice to murder, is facing 28 years in jail, and accessory J.J.W. may sit for 24 years.
Attorney-at-law Brenda Brooks repeated her previous pleadings held during the preliminary stages of this trial, in which she had claimed that the summons issued to her client for a preliminary hearing in January was declared null and void. This should have led the courts to declare the Prosecutor's case against M.K.J. inadmissible, Brooks maintained.
The attorney already announced that during the future appeal hearing in this case, she will once again argue against the Prosecutor Office's "pertinent mistakes" made in her client's case.
Brooks mentioned excessive violence exerted by the police during her client's arrest on September 23, 2012, as a reason to reduce her client's sentence.
M.K.J. was found hiding under a bed in his girlfriend's house. Brooks stated that police brutality and "lots of licks" had led to her client's treatment at St. Maarten Medical Centre, where he was stitched.
M.K.J.'s lawyer pointed out that her client had only been an accessory to the armed robbery at the Chinese restaurant. "He was the driver of the getaway car, and never left the vehicle. He was still in his security-guard uniform," said Brooks.
She pointed out that the robbery was committed "on the spur of the moment," at an establishment frequented regularly by her client; also during that particular day.
Brooks contested the position of Prosecutors Dounia Benammar and Georges van den Eshof that the killings constituted premeditated murder.
"There is no evidence this was plotted or planned...There was no moment of calm deliberation," Brooks said in pleading for an acquittal of murder.
The attorney claimed that the decision to stab the victims to death was made in a "split-second," and, therefore, "without a doubt" constituted manslaughter.
The lawyer also addressed M.K.J.'s apparent loss of memory about what had transpired at the King's apartment.
"I understand this is a moment you don't want to remember. I wish I would by now have understood what's going on in his mind, but I can't," the attorney said about her client.
Psychiatric experts considered M.K.J. fully accountable for his acts.
Brooks pleaded for a lesser sentence, stating that there was no reprieve for life sentences. "Thirty years should be the punishment," the lawyer said.
Attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel presented a judicial-technical defence of her client J.C.M., who had pleaded guilty on most charges.
Bommel said her client should be acquitted of involvement with murder, because it was his sole intent to take away valuables, and not take lives.
"My client did not know that M.K.J. had the intention to kill," said Bommel. "It is also not proven that my client was there when M.K.J. slit the victims' throats. He wasn't even aware that M.K.J. held a weapon in his hand. He had left the house shortly after he had taken money from the vault. The Kings' deaths were a surprise and came as a shock to my client, when he heard of their demise and read about it in the newspapers."
According to the attorney, her client could only be convicted of theft with violence and of unlawful restraint, and should be acquitted of guilt by association in connection with the murder and manslaughter charges.
Attorney-at-law Safira Ibrahim said J.J.W. took full responsibility for his acts. He was "deeply remorseful and expressed sorrow" for the "disastrous consequences of his acts," the lawyer said.
J.J.W. allegedly was the initiator of the restaurant robbery. His lawyer told the Court that her client had been in financial problems and could not provide for himself and his pregnant girlfriend.
It was, however, contested that the robbery in Cupecoy was also premeditated and planned. J.J.W's lawyer stated that her client had only wanted to steal goods and money and "had not displayed the behaviour of a cold-blooded murderer." To the contrary, her client had tried to prevent the stabbing and had told M.K.J. "not to do it," said Ibrahim.
"I cannot stress enough that money was my client's only concern. There is no question of my client's complicity to murder," the lawyer said in stating that the deaths of Michael and Thelma King were not planned and could also not have been foreseen. She pleaded for J.J.W's acquittal of murder and manslaughter.
In their final statements, all three suspects offered their apologies and condolences to the family of the deceased.
M.K.J. said he would be seeking a chance to go back to society. "I can't see myself spending a lifetime in jail for something I can't remember," he said.
J.C.M. said he wished he was able to go back in time and stop what had happened. "I would say sorry, but I know the family [of the deceased - Ed.] would not accept it. The killing wasn't planned," he said.
J.J.W. echoed this statement and said the crime was not intended. "I wish I had a second chance to do better with my life," he said. Judge Tamara Tijhuis is expected to give her decision on May 8.
(The Daily Herald)

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