Headline — 01 August 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks
Justin Orellana, 25, walks from manslaughter indictment

He did not have an attorney, but nevertheless overcame a Crown Counsel and 8 witnesses

A nine-member jury who deliberated the Crown’s evidence against Justin Emmanuel Orellana, 25, for two hours and twenty-five minutes, returned into the courtroom of Supreme Court Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez and announced a not guilty of manslaughter verdict this afternoon, ending more than seven years of prosecution of Orellana, who was initially charged with murder.

On March 27, 2007, Orellana, who was a 17-year-old high school student at the time, was accused of the stabbing death of his stepfather, Cecil Thompson, 38. The incident occurred at 4539 Vernon Street, where Orellana was living with his family.

On the night when the incident occurred, Orellana returned home and asked his stepfather where his belongings were. He was referring to his clothing and some electronic equipment.

According to his mother, Rogelia Luriano, Thompson was on drugs and used to steal her son’s things and he would sell them and then say that someone broke into the house and stole the missing things.

When his stepfather did not answer him, Orellana allegedly went into the kitchen and returned with a kitchen knife with an 8-inch blade, and stabbed his stepfather multiple times over his body.

After the stabbing, a motionless Thompson was lying on the floor of the house when officers from the Crimes Investigation Branch arrived on the scene.

Some four and a half years later, in September 2012, Orellana was tried for the murder.

There was no eyewitness to the crime, and police relied heavily on an oral caution statement that Orellana purportedly gave to investigators. Orellana apparently did not sign the oral statement that police said he gave to them.

During the trial, however, Orellana denied giving the statement to police.

The statement was recorded by Corporal Jose Zetina around 10:40 on the night after the murder was committed.

Zetina, who had risen to the rank of sergeant, died before the case went to trial.

Both Zetina’s statement and Orellana’s disputed caution statement were admitted into the evidence at the trial.

The 12-member jury found him not guilty of murder. On the alternative charge of manslaughter, however, the jury was deadlocked and could not arrive at a verdict.
The court declared a mistrial and Orellana was taken back to prison to await a new trial. Eventually, he was released on bail from the Supreme Court in September 2012, after spending almost 5 years on remand.

The manslaughter case against Orellana began before Justice Gonzalez on Monday, July 21. Crown Counsel Kilreu Awich, who led the prosecution’s case, called eight witnesses to give evidence.

To get Orellana’s caution statement admitted into evidence, Awich called Inspector Suzette Anderson, who was a sergeant at the time the killing occurred. To satisfy the court that Zetina was dead, Awich called woman sergeant Alma Mortis to the witness stand.

Orellana, who was unrepresented by an attorney, questioned the absence of Zetina’s death certificate, and he also questioned why Zetina’s evidence was just being given to him when the trial was underway.

Gonzalez asked him if he wanted the court to adjourn for a few minutes so that he could familiarize himself with the late disclosure. Orellana decided against the adjournment and told the judge that he would continue with the trial.

In his defense, Orellana gave sworn testimony, telling the court that he was not at home when his stepfather was killed. He told the court that he was in Hattieville with a friend. He also brought his friend as an alibi witness to testify at the trial.

The alibi witness, Raymond Bowen, told the court that the accused man was with him in Hattieville from sometime in the afternoon on March 27, 2007, until police picked him up in his (Bowen’s presence) and arrested him for the murder at a police checkpoint.

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