Jan. 9, 2007 — Articles recently published in a local newspaper have prompted defense attorney Stephen Brusch to ask for the case against Akil and Jahmal Hart, brothers charged with murdering two New York tourists in June 2005, to be dismissed. A hearing scheduled for late Wednesday morning will ultimately determine whether the matter will go to trial on Jan. 16.
Brusch filed a motion to dismiss the case on Monday, explaining that statements previously made by Goshnel "Foma" Walters, a key government witness, are "false" and therefore could not be presented before the court.
Reports published last month by the Daily News claim that Walters has recanted his original account of the murders, which occurred near the Frenchtown Post Office in the early morning hours of June 15, 2005.
In a 30-page statement, dictated to former Police Detective Joel Dowdye, Walters says he did not see what happened to New York residents Leon H. Roberts and Tristan A. Charlier, but was "forced" by police into saying that he did (See "VIPD Officials Not Commenting About Witness's Alleged Statement in New York Tourists Murder Case").
Walters' statement, which is attached to the motion, is frequently referenced by Brusch, and is described as a "tale of police and prosecutorial coercion, brutality and corruption."
Rife with literary analogies, Brusch's motion likens Walters' experience to the Spanish Inquisition, where local detectives "traded justice for their own personal gain," by forcing Walters at gunpoint to sign a statement identifying the shooters.
"The only reason Walters signed the papers is pure fear for his life," Brusch says. "In this case, to permit the government to continue to prosecute Mr. Hart would be to permit Walters' coerced perjury and to corrupt the administration of justice The inquisition must end."
Brusch further states that evidence gathered against the Harts "flies in the face" of Walters' statement and identifications, as well as statements given by three other public "informants," which indicate that the shooters traveled by car.
"Despite the lack of a murder weapon, DNA evidence, shoe print evidence, or any other physical or circumstantial evidence, the police arrested Mr. Hart and his brother based solely on the identification and statement of Walters," Brusch writes.
Brusch also says that attempts made by the defense to collect evidence gathered against Jahmal Hart have been unsuccessful, resulting in the filing of two subsequent motions calling for the government to disclose various records, including video and audio recordings relevant to the case.
After the government "failed to respond to either motion," Hart filed a motion to dismiss the case early last month, Brusch states. "To date, the government has not responded," he said.
Brusch additionally calls the Harts' arrest, along with Walters' alleged experience with the VIPD, a "mass injustice," motivated "not by revenge or deterrence, but good old-fashioned greed."
The matter, which will be heard Wednesday in V.I. Superior Court, is scheduled to come before Judge Edgar Ross at 11 a.m.
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