Headline — 10 June 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks
Court of Appeal overturns Krismar Espinosa murder acquittal; orders new trial

Krismar Espinosa, 25, who was accused of the 2009 Christmas Eve murder of fellow prison inmate Keon Kyle Swasey, but was acquitted of it in December 2012, when Supreme Court Justice John Gonzalez upheld a no-case-to-answer submission from his attorney and directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict, had his acquittal overturned by the Court of Appeal today.

The Court of Appeal heard arguments from Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, who had appealed Espinosa’s acquittal. Espinosa was represented by attorney Hubert Elrington, S.C.

The appeal was argued before a panel of three Appeal Court Justices, the Honorable Manuel Sosa, the court’s president and Appeal Justices Minet Haffiz and Samuel Awich.

At the conclusion of the hearing, President Sosa announced that the court had allowed the appeal.

“The ruling of the trial judge and the acquittal are both set aside. A retrial on the charge of murder before a judge other than Justice Gonzalez is ordered. Reasons for judgment will be given in writing at a later date. The respondent, who is on remand for another murder, is to remain on remand,” Justice Sosa told the court.

Following the hearing, DPP Vidal told Amandala that at the trial, there were certain challenges to the Crown’s evidence. “But we felt that there was enough evidence for the case to have gone to the jury,” she said.

“At the end of the prosecution’s case, the counsel for the defense made a no-case submission, and notwithstanding our response to the submission, the judge ruled in favor of the defense and directed an acquittal of Espinosa,” Vidal said.

She added, “The evidence was sufficient and the judge had therefore erred and ruled in the defense’s favor. So as a result, I filed an appeal. The court agreed with us that at the trial, the judge had not acted correctly in taking the case away from the jury.”

Vidal said that apart from their assertion that there had been an error in law, which was one ground on which they filed the appeal, they also had another ground. There was a fellow witness, Abileno Briceño, who had given the police a statement in which he said that Krismar Espinosa was the person who stabbed Keon Swasey, because of an old beef.

But at the trial, Briceño told the court that he did not recall most of the statement that he gave to the police.

Vidal said that that was grounds for Briceño to be treated as an adverse witness, but they were not allowed to make submissions as to why he should be treated as an adverse witness.

“The court told the Counsel from up front, ‘you can make the application, but I’m telling you from now, I am not going to allow it,’” Vidal explained.

“We thought that was not a proper exercise of the judge’s discretion. So our second ground is that the judge improperly exercised his discretion in refusing our application,” Vidal stated.

“I felt like justice was served today,” said the DPP, “There are very few times when I can appeal a decision, and I exercise that very sparingly.”

Elrington said that the trial judge felt strongly that the evidence was nebulous, and stated, “my client now has the opportunity to take this matter to the Caribbean Court of Justice on a point of law.”

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