Man freed in Lauriston murder trial celebrating 'early Christmas'

Man freed in Lauriston murder trial celebrating 'early Christmas'

Defence lawyer tells him to find the nearest church and go and praise God

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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SANJA Ducally, the former murder accused in the 2011 brutal murder of 18-year-old Joeith Lynch and her mother Charmaine Rattray in Lauriston, St Catherine, described his acquittal yesterday as an “early Christmas”, according to his attorney Anthony Williams.

The former accused walked from the Supreme Court a free man after eight years behind bars when the judge upheld a no-case submission by his attorney.

“He feels like Christmas has arrived. I told Mr Ducally to find the nearest church and go and praise God; that was my recommendation. He's feeling elated; he has always said, 'Mr Williams, I am not guilty of this offence',” Williams told members of the media yesterday following a successful no-case submission ruling by Supreme Court Judge Justice Vivene Harris moments earlier.

Justice Harris instructed the seven-member jury to return a verdict of “not guilty” on both counts of murder in respect of Ducally, following on the submission made by Williams on Monday, moments after the prosecution, led by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, made its closing arguments in the matter.

Williams contended that the prosecution had failed to produce evidence to show “that there was a plan, aiding and abetting and participation” on the part of Ducally in relation to the crime.

The prosecution had maintained that there was more than adequate factual basis in respect of evidence which would obligate the court to call upon Mr Ducally to present his defence, arguing that there was no need for the court to withdraw the case.

Yesterday, Justice Harris, in handing down the judgement, said in examining the arguments relating to Ducally's participation in the incident, there was “no evidence presented by the prosecution that Mr Ducally knew a murder was taking place in that house prior and that there is no evidence he was a part of the plan (to murder the women) before he went into the house”.

“It is my view, having considered the authorities in the area and the evidence of the prosecution, that there is absolutely no evidence that he planned with the individuals to commit the murders,” Justice Harris said.
Yesterday, Williams basked in the moment.

“I must tell you that I feel exceptionally elated and I am elated because as a lawyer you must always deal with your client's case passionately for justice. I feel elated because having regard to the evidence produced by the prosecution it fell woefully short of the legal requirements of common design and when the learned trial judge ruled in our favour she made it very clear that the prosecution failed to establish the evidence of murder, they failed to establish the evidence of common design and evidence was that Mr Ducally knew nothing about the murder,” he said.

In fact, he said, his client, who has expressed sadness about the murders, was romantically interested in Lynch.
“Mr Ducally indicated to me that the daughter, otherwise called Joeith, was his friend. They talked at some point and there was an intention to have an intimate relationship. Surprisingly and that was one of the reasons he went over there to assist. So when he said 'I heard the screaming and I went over there to help Crystal' it gives credence to what he is saying. The learned director of public prosecutions was saying why the accused would go over to the house at that hour. Well, she may not have any reasons to go over there, but he had very good reason to go over there. He knew the occupants of the house, he heard screaming and he thought as a good Samaritan to go and investigate,“ said the lawyer.

Making reference to Ducally's caution statement which was entered into evidence during the trial, Williams said “he was on his way from a party, he heard screaming, recognised that it was coming from Crystal's [pet name for Lynch] house, it was Crystal's voice and he went over there with one intention and one intention only – to save Crystal.

“In the process, he asked the men what happened and he got a chop in response. He immediately ran; that is not consistent with someone who purposely and deliberately decided to go there. The evidence was palpably, inexorably weak from the prosecution's end and we had to do what we had to do to defend our client very vigorously,” said the defence lawyer.

“We are happy about the results because the prosecution only relied on the caution statement and the caution statement could just not help them. We had to make the no-case submission; it was our duty to do it and the judge accepted our submission,” said Williams, who was assisted by attorney-at-law Julie-Ann Bailey.

Added Williams: “It is a gruesome murder and there is no doubt about that. As a lawyer, as a human being it is gruesome, but as a criminal advocate I have to go beyond that and move away the passion and the emotion and do the case, based on the law and facts. Having regard to the facts it was just manifestly weak. There is no way the learned trial judge could have left this weak, tenuous case to the jury [as] it would not succeed. If we did not succeed with the no-case we were pretty much confident that we would have succeeded in the end.”

“I told him he has to move on with his life, as to what he will do I don't know, but I told him to make sure he has the grace of God with him,” the defence attorney said further.  

Asked whether Ducally was planning to seek redress for the time spent behind bars, he said: “Mr Ducally raised that with me and I think if he should file a lawsuit in those circumstances it is not likely to succeed because in order for any litigant like Mr Ducally to file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution they would have to show that the police maliciously, without any reasonable cause, went ahead and arrested him.

“The police in this case would have had some reasonable cause and he would have to prove that it was malicious and I think that was where that case would fall down, so for a civil suit having regard to the circumstances I do not think it would succeed,” Williams continued.

Noting that the “investigations could have been more thorough”, Williams however commended the police “for moving swiftly on the matter because it was a gruesome murder”.

Yesterday, the bespectacled Ducally, clad in a white, longsleeved shirt with grey stripes and dark blue pants, standing at the behest of the judge in the docks replied, “Thank you, Your Honour,” a slight smile playing around his lips when told by the judge of her decision.

“You are acquitted on both counts of the indictment and discharged and free to go,” Justice Harris told Ducally following the utterances by the foreman of the jury. “Thank you, Your Honour” the broadly smiling Ducally said, leaving the dock — where his cousin Kemar Riley sat — without a backward look or a word.

Rattray and her daughter were, on the night of July 19, fatally hacked to death, shot, then beheaded by a group of about eight men, five of whom were later arrested and charged in relation to the brutal murders. Three of the men, Adrian Campbell, Roshane Goldson, and Fabian Smith, have since pleaded guilty to non-capital murder and are to be sentenced, while Ducally and Riley pleaded not guilty to murder and were standing trial. The trial continues today and will see Riley, who took the stand for the first time yesterday, facing the court again.

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