Crime — 07 March 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks
Court of Appeal orders retrial for Edward Buller, convicted of manslaughter

His conviction and 16-year sentence was quashed by the appeal justices

The Court of Appeal has quashed the 16-year sentence of Edward Buller, 55, and ordered a new trial. Buller was convicted of manslaughter for the June 20, 2009 death of Ella Mae Bennett, 41, a Honduran national whose body was discovered in an abandoned house on Central American Boulevard.

The trial judge had failed to direct the jury on a caution statement that Buller had given to police, the court found. Buller had contended that the statement was taken from him by force, and this was the legal lynchpin which resulted in the appeal justices ruling to overturn the conviction.

At his trial, Buller denied being at the crime scene. He told the court that he was at home watching television.

In June 2011, Buller was tried on a murder indictment, but after deliberating for over four hours, a jury of six men and six women returned into the courtroom of Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas with a not guilty of murder verdict, but a verdict of guilty for the lesser charge of manslaughter.

After mitigation pleas, Justice Lucas sentenced Buller to 16 years in prison.

Buller was represented at the appeal hearing by attorney Anthony Sylvester, while Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal represented the prosecution.

In her submission, Vidal told the court that she was conceding that there was a misdirection to the jury on the part of the trial judge, and that there was a need for a retrial of the convicted Buller.

The DPP also contended that had the jury been properly directed they might have also had convicted Buller on the murder indictment.

Sylvester said he could not understand how the jury found his client guilty of manslaughter and he was unsure if a retrial could help him.

At the murder trial, Buller told the court that he only pushed the woman and she fell and hit her head. But that assertion was not supported by the doctor who performed the post-mortem on Bennett’s body.

According to the doctor’s evidence, Bennett died from trauma to the head. A cement block was found next to her body.

Since a retrial was ordered, Sylvester made a bail request, but Justice Sosa told him that his bail request would be forwarded to the Supreme Court.

The presiding Appeal Justices were President of the Court of Appeal Hon. Manuel Sosa, Hon. Dennis Morrison, and Hon. Douglas Mendez.

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