Features General — 25 January 2013 — by Rochelle Gillett
Keisha Banner, 24, convicted of arson

Banner allegedly burned down her common-law husband’s house after an argument

Today after a jury deliberated for almost three hours, they returned with a guilty verdict against Keisha Banner, 24, who was accused of arson.

On January 30, 2011, Dishon Rowland, the then common-law husband of Banner, was at his home at #69 Vernon Street, with Banner and some friends playing a game of cards in the yard.

Banner and Rowland got into an argument over the card game. In his testimony, Rowland told the court that after getting into the argument, he went inside the house but decided to leave. But as he was leaving the house, he went into the kitchen and saw a bottle of gasoline, which he moved.

About 20 minutes after leaving the house, he received a call that his house was on fire.

The Crown, which was represented by Sheneiza Smith and newly appointed member of the Director of Public Prosecutions office, Leroy Banner, then called their main witness, Carla Flowers.

In her testimony, she told the court that after the card game had ended, and after Rowland had left the house, Banner asked her for a lighter. Banner told Flowers that she wanted to borrow the lighter so she could cook something. After being told that Flowers didn’t have a lighter, only a box of matches, Banner borrowed the matches and went inside.

Flowers told the court that a few minutes after Banner went inside, Banner’s mother came by in a vehicle. She then shouted to Banner to return her box of matches before leaving, but Banner just jumped into the vehicle and left, Flowers said.

Flowers said that when she looked back at the house, she saw red flames coming from the back, after which she heard a “bang”, then saw a billow of black smoke coming from the house.

In his testimony, Rowland had told the court that although he did have a stove in his house, there was no gas to cook with. So the matches that Banner had borrowed to light the stove to cook would have been useless for that purpose.

Other witnesses were called by the Crown, including the investigating and arresting officer, Sgt. Dennis Miles; the scenes-of-crime technician, Pablo Marin; and the fire investigator, Brenton Gentle.

Banner, who was unrepresented in court, took the stand in her own defense. But she did not present much of a defense, because most of what she told court was about her relationship with Rowland.

According to her, when they got into the argument, Rowland hit her and went in the house. She said she followed him and called the police, and that was when he tried to leave. In trying to prevent his departure while on the phone with the police, Banner said, she put her hand across the door and Rowland slammed her hand with the door.

After slamming her hand with the door, Banner said, Rowland left. She said she called her mother and asked her to come for her. She then packed a bag and when her mother came, she left the house, even though the police had not arrived yet.

When she was arraigned, Banner said, Rowland went to court in an attempt to have the charges withdrawn. When Banner was asked why Rowland wanted to do that, she replied that she was pregnant and Rowland didn’t want her to suffer.

That alleged pregnancy, however, didn’t materialize with a baby because, according to Banner, Rowland had taken her into an abandoned building and viciously beat her, causing her to have a miscarriage.

After deliberating for two hours and forty five minutes, the 8-woman, 1-man jury returned with a unanimous guilty verdict. Banner’s sentencing will take place on Friday, February 1, 2013, allowing her time to produce character witnesses and present her mitigation plea.

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