John’s evidence ‘manifestly unreliable’ – defence lawyer
The sole prosecution witness implicating Senator Ashelle Morgan with assault is Cornelius John himself and his evidence is “manifestly unreliable”, the Senator’s lawyer Duane Daniel argued this week.
“For the court to convict Ms Morgan the court will have to place all its faith in the credibility of Mr John,” Daniel argued before Magistrate Bertie Pompey on Wednesday at the end of submissions that his client has no case to defend on the charge against her of criminal assault.
Morgan was alleged to have said she would shoot John in the mouth if he called her f-ing name while John was lying on his property having been shot in the leg by a male individual. Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP), Karim Nelson was being tried alongside Morgan for allegedly wounding John and unlawfully discharging a firearm.
Daniel first submitted to the court that the Investigator admitted under cross examination that “the only evidence against Ms Morgan comes from Cornelius John,” and, “that there is no other witness in relation to her having a gun or making any threats.”
Daniel argued that there “are at best two witnesses” who gave evidence in relation to the event.
One is auxiliary officer Rochel Franklyn who lives in the area and who helped a wounded John on April 13. She claimed to identify Morgan going to and from the scene.
“She does not see Morgan with any gun, nor did she see or witness the transaction at the time of the shooting,” Daniel noted. “She does not claim to hear Ms Morgan’s voice at all while Ms Morgan is in John’s yard.”
The other witness is Nicole John, Cornelius John’s wife, who said she was seated in the porch of her residence opposite to her husband’s property a short distance away. Nicole John also did not testify to Morgan adopting a posture over her husband, or having a gun. She did not hear Morgan’s voice at all.
To the police, Morgan denied giving threats, having a gun and “telling anyone to shoot anyone”.
The counsel noted the good character of his client, who has no criminal record, and “stands in her good stead.”
Additionally, according to Commissioner of Police Colin John who was cross examined by Daniel, lawyers and public figures would be favourably considered for a firearm license following the fatal shooting of a lawyer.
“…the clear picture which emerges is there is no good reason or purpose for Ms Morgan, a person of good character who could easily have a licensed firearm to resort to the risk of an unlicensed firearm,” as is suggested from John’s evidence that she has a gun on her.
“How credible is Mr John?” the lawyer questioned.
John had maintained that he was not a violent man, was a godly man, and did not make threats to anyone.
“On the contrary, under cross examination of Mr John and as elicited from Mrs John, as well as from documentary records we find the following: a conviction for an offence against the person albeit decades old; a report made to the police by Nicole John on April 14 for threatening language he made on April 13, 2021; evidence that on April 13, 2021, he threatened to chop the neck of his wife and sacrifice her head and blood to the devil; threats on April 13, 2021 made in respect of killing Mrs John’s children who are incidentally his own children; threats made on April 13, 2021, to kill his own grandchild…” and two other pieces of evidence allegedly linking John to threats.
Daniel said these “significantly shakes the fabric of the credibility” of John as a witness of truth because he maintained “I did not threaten her” in his evidence.
While telling Daniel he is not violent, he has destroyed things in his home as per his wife’s evidence.
Although John said he wasn’t abusive to his wife, Nicole John admitted that he struck her once.
Separately the lawyer attacked the evidence given by John when he said a male figure stamped him in his chest and stomach so that he passed stool.
“The medical report which is submitted and put into evidence bolstered by the viva voce evidence of Dr Woods is that when Mr John presented to Accident and Emergency at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on April 13, 2021, whereto he admitted as a patient, he presented with no complaints to his abdominal or chest area.”
Daniel emphasised, “This single fact is of such momentous proportion that it is enough to completely destroy and obliterate his credibility.”
According to witness Franklyn who went to John after he was shot, John said to her that Ashelle Morgan “bring her hit man dem” to shoot him. However, Daniel pointed out that he never said that she brought a gun or threatened him, neither did he say that to the officers who went on the scene later.
Finally the lawyer, recapping the evidence as they see it, noted that from this the indicator is that Morgan’s’ intention that night was lawful and nothing untoward.
He finally posited that the evidence is tenuous and unsafe.
“The evidence of the sole witness Mr John is manifestly unreliable, and the prosecution’s case when taken at its highest fails to discharge its burden”, he submitted.
The prosecution led by St Lucia’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP) Stephen Brette in his response, began: “When my learned friend tells the court that there is only the evidence of Mr John in relation to the words uttered by the defendant Miss Ashelle Morgan he is quite correct, but the law is that no corroboration required and the court may convict on the evidence of one witness alone.”
Brette pointed out that the court had overruled his objections to the defence posing questions to John about his religious beliefs and character, but his research shows that it ought not to have done so. He outlined the authority that he was referencing.
“…the witness was being asked questions and being asked to draw inferences or to make comments in relation to the questions that he was asked in relation to his violent past and action being taken before his wife and his children,” the prosecutor said.
Reading further from the legal authority, the prosecutor said, “our submission is that all of their responses that were made in relation to that, and my learned friend is now asking the court to discredit the witness on, we are asking for the court to disabuse its mind from that.”
He also referenced authority to say that the past conviction against John should not have been tendered into evidence.
Brette said that based on the evidence the only two persons who could have heard what was said are Morgan and John.
John had given his version to the police, and under oath in court. The evidence that he was shot was also confirmed.
“Mr John has given other evidence which has been proved independently to be true, I am submitting to this court and I am asking this court do not be selective and say well this part of the evidence is not true…” Brette argued, “…We are asking that you believe the evidence as a whole.”
When it comes to John not telling the people who went to help him after he was shot that Morgan threatened to shoot him, the Deputy DPP said, “There is no rule of law that says if that is not said at the time then it’s not true.”
“We are also asking the court to consider and appreciate that Mr John was just shot in the foot, and a proper inference could be drawn that he was probably labouring under the pain and the distress of being shot,” and attempting to staunch the flow of blood, he submitted.