The case of the Queen versus Mr. Taejron Bennett and Mr. Joseph Kee, charged with the murders of Philip and Kevin Brannon, came to a screeching halt at approximately 12 minutes past 10 in the Belmopan Supreme Court on Monday morning, December 15, more than two years after the crime, when DPP Cherylyn Branker-Taitt signaled to the judge that she was unable to continue the case because of the incapacitation of a key witness. At a quarter after ten, approximately, Judge Troadio Gonzalez announced to the defendants, Taejron Bennett and Joseph Kee, that they were free to go.
The DPP explained to Amandala that Corporal Fitzroy Yearwood, a witness for the prosecution who she said had strong corroborative evidence to link Bennett and Kee with the crime, could not make it to court because he was recovering from surgery to his stomach. His doctor had advised that he was not strong enough to attend trial.
The DPP said that Corporal Yearwood and another witness would have told the court that Bennett threatened the Brannon brothers at the Civic Center, and they would have placed Kee in the grey Tracker and Bennett in the blue Mitsubishi Montero that witnesses claim were at the scene of the crime on Albert Street West on May 14, 2006.
Attorney for the defense, Mr. Richard Bradley, told Amandala that the police knew all along that they had picked up the wrong men; that they didn’t have the evidence to back up their story. He lamented that two innocent men, Bennett and Kee, had languished at the Kolbe Prison for two and a half years for a crime neither of them had committed.
On Friday, December 12, 2008, the case of the Queen against Bennett and Kee in the Belmopan Supreme Court had continued after being suspended on Wednesday, December 10. Ms. Marcia Bailey was back on the witness stand, and she was the only person to testify. On Wednesday Ms. Bailey had said that she was on the phone when she heard a noise outside her house. She interrupted her call to look through her window. She heard gunshots and saw a man shooting at a car on the street that belonged to her cousins, the Brannon brothers.
Under cross examination, Ms. Bailey explained that she had a clear view of the street outside through her window. She explained that her window is the old colonial style double-hung type, that the lower sash was up, and that she had pushed aside the curtain. She said that the street outside her house on Albert Street West was well lit (4 or 5 lamp posts), but that there were dark areas on the section that led to the sea nearby. She said that her view of the street was impeded on one side by a verandah outside her house. She also said that she could not see Basil Brannon (Basil was shot, but survived) who was in the yard just outside her house.
Defense Attorney Ellis Arnold suggested to Ms. Bailey that she could not have seen the face of the shooter as definitively as she said she had, because the shooting took place across the street from where she was, and also, from the position the killer fired the shots she could not have had a good frontal view of his face.
In testimony Ms. Bailey said that she estimated that she had watched the scene unfolding before her for about 5 minutes, but conceded to Mr. Arnold that it must have “seemed” like 5 minutes, that she could not have been at the window for more than 15 or so seconds.
On the matter of the statement she had given to one Inspector Dawson of the Belize City police, dated May 16, 2006, Attorney Arnold established that Ms. Bailey never mentioned that the gunman was of Chinese descent, and that her sworn statement of that date included her identifying the person she said was the killer as he came off the prison bus near the Magistrate’s Court in Belize City – on June 16, 2006.
In testimony Ms. Bailey said that the second time she saw the killer (the first time she saw him after the shooting) was when she pointed him out to a Brannon family member as he came off the prison bus. She said she identified him as “Joseph Kee,” and that she was able to do so (put a name to the person she saw shooting into the Brannon’s car) because she had heard the name on the newscast of a Belize City television station.
Attorney Arnold pointed out that in her statement Ms. Bailey stated that she identified Mr. Joseph Kee in the Magistrate’s Court, not when he came off the bus. He challenged Ms. Bailey that the reason she believed Mr. Kee was the killer of the Brannon brothers was because she had seen his image on the television station, on the same newscast she had heard his name called. Ms. Bailey insisted that she had not seen the image of Mr. Kee on the television, that she only heard his name called. The defense rested its cross-examination of Ms. Bailey at 5 minutes of noon on Friday, 1 hour and 55 minutes after she took the stand.
Before she stepped from the witness box, Ms. Bailey told the DPP and the court that she got a very good frontal view of the person who killed the Brannon brothers, and shot Basil Brannon and Marvin Humes in the wee hours of May 14, 2006. She said she was sure that person was the one she had identified in the courtroom that morning.
But all the evidence heard by the jury was put aside on Monday when the DPP announced that the Crown was withdrawing from the case. As soon as the judge announced that the case was a nolle prosequi, Basil Brannon, his family and his friends in court quietly exited the court room. The former accused also showed little emotion when they learned that they were free men.
The DPP told Amandala that when her key witness is fit enough to testify, she may bring back the case.