We’d like to welcome guest blogger Jeanie Cockayne. Jeanie’s son was murdered in St. John a few years back and she has requested an open forum here on the St. Thomas Blog. The writing and opinions are those of Jeanie Cockayne and not the opinions or views of the St. Thomas Blog.
We are writing this letter to formally support Assistant Attorney General Claude Walker’s recent motion to seek Judge Brenda Hollar’s recusal from a potential third trial for Jahlil Ward, our son Jamie’s alleged/convicted killer.
There are specific points that we would like to address to support our position. Prosecution witness, Daryl Martens. Judge Hollar made the statement in open court that Daryl Martens received “payoffs” from our family in exchange for his testimony. The facts: Daryl Martens contacted us shortly after being discharged from a Correctional facility on St Thomas with information that was important to this case (We did not, under any circumstances, seek him out as the court has suggested.) We immediately attempted to share his contact information with the prosecutor Renee Gumbs-Carty but, we were unable to reach her. Our Lawyer Sean Summers then contacted SA. Schmidt of the F.B.I. and relayed the information we had received. In the meantime, Mr. Martens continued to call me collect and begged for a calling card or phone so he could contact us. He also asked if we could help him with a place to stay he was frightened, helpless and had nowhere to go. Our goal at that point was to keep him available to speak to the authorities. He made a promise to reimburse us once his parents, who were abroad at the time, returned to California.
In July 2007, we were beside ourselves with grief our child, brother; friend had been cut down on the streets of Cruz Bay. I was an easy mark if in fact Martens was trying to take advantage of our family. We were unable to get anyone – including the F.B.I. – to take his statement. Therefore, we asked Iris Kern if she would try to help facilitate a meeting between Gumbs-Carty and Martens. Unable at the time to arrange that meeting I requested Iris Kern to speak to him herself. It took a few days to set up a meeting during which we continued to give Mr. Martens shelter at a local motel. These details are important because Judge Hollar referred to what we did as “payoffs” not only in open court but in local newspapers and in public records. Additionally, we were tired of being forced to pay for this mans room and phone. We did what we thought we had to do in order for someone of authority take his statement. This gentleman was in his late thirties with no job, no place to live and apparently no friends. We believed he was trying to do the right thing and we believed him when he said he would pay us back. Ms. Kern did speak to him and afterward she was able to make arrangements for a meeting between Gumbs-Carty and Martens, I do not remember how long it was before Martens finally gave his statement to Gumbs-Carty. As soon as he did I broke off all contact, it was my belief if the Government believed his statement they would take care and be sure he was safe.
Reward for Tips Leading to a Conviction in the Case: This was another matter that Judge Hollar demonstrated a clear bias which undoubtedly influenced the case. Shortly after our son’s murder, we asked Police Commissioner James McCall for permission to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for this heinous crime. Commissioner McCall told us we had to get approval from the Attorney General’s Office, which he agreed to contact on our behalf. Commission McCall contacted our attorney Sean Summers and gave approval for us to post the $10,000 reward. McCall also gave us the phone number for tipsters to call, which he referred to in the online paper, “The Source” on July 4, 2007. He reported that the Cockayne family had offered a $10,000 award and he was pleased we were working with the police. Wish I could think of appropriate words to describe the pain Judge Hollar’s words have caused us. We have no recourse, in court; judges can say anything they like. I take exception to the unsubstantiated slurs about us made in front of the jury and then subsequently printed in newspapers. We offered the award way back in 2007 shortly after Jamie’s death.
We were convinced someone knew who killed Jamie, or at least had some information that would help locate the killers. We hoped someone would come forward. We also understood the danger witnesses could be placing themselves. The two recipients of the award gave their statements to the police and / or the F.B.I. before the award was posted. Mr. Ferguson gave a statement the night of the murder and then fled the island for fear of retaliation. Once we found out his name on our own by asking questions around Cruz Bay we got to work trying to find out if he would talk to the F.B.I. and our investigators. He refused to speak to anyone unless he could have an attorney present and he was in no way able or willing to pay a lawyers fee. The court should understand we were frantic.
Our youngest child had been stabbed to death, I tell you I was not interested in anything but to help find Jamie’s killer. I owed it to Jamie then and I owe it to him now. To suggest we would be happy to have just anyone go to jail to be punished for Jamie’s murder is ridiculous. Our attorney then contacted Ferguson’s attorney and authorized payment for Mr. Ferguson’s attorney. We did not give Mr. Ferguson any cash for clothes that is completely untrue. Mr. Rawlins, although he was the individual who tried to stop Thomas and Boston from going after Jamie and went to the police to report a problem before Jamie was killed, he tried to save Jamie’s life by sending the police to help Jamie, the police never interviewed Rawlins or took a formal statement. They did not ask him any questions about what he saw and heard that night. Within days of Jamie’s killing Mr. Rawlins voluntarily went to the police to give a statement. This information we found out from our private investigators, long after Rawlins had gone to the police.
Now I have to ask, what could possibly be a motive for us to,”pay off” witnesses that had already given their statement? It is a ridiculous assumption for anyone to believe we did anything at all unsavory. The witnesses story never changed it is incredible to even suggest the rewards were anything but above board. Again let me make the point, THEY NEVER CHANGED THEIR STATEMENTS. After, and this is really important, after the first trial and guilty verdicts we decided as a family that although no one appeared to expect the reward we should fulfill our commitment. We thought it was the right thing to do.
As a family we decided on the two witnesses that came forward immediately and tried to help Jamie. The court has repeatedly given the jury and the community the opinion and made it obvious to all, that our behavior was an attempt to control the outcome of a murder trial. Regarding Jahlil Ward: We did receive an anonymous tip during the summer of 2007 that a man by the name of Jahlil Ward was involved in Jamie’s murder and was at the scene of Jamie’s killing. Our attorney gave Ward’s name to F.B.I. agent Schmidt and asked him to look into it. The trial judge or the defense attorney has made mention several times how Ward’s name never came up until Thomas’ investigator dug up his name. Completely incorrect, we had the name, we passed it on. If nothing was done with the information that would not surprise me in the least.
Issues the judge could not reconcile: Judge Hollar discussed evidence entered by witnesses Frazer and Asante Leslie. Frazer said he saw blood on the top of Ward’s sneakers and Leslie said she saw blood on the bottom of his sneakers. This is another example of Judge Hollar’s inability to allow the jury to put 2+2 together and reach the sum of 4. She wonders how both can be correct, easily I say. There was blood everywhere blood poured out of Jamie after being stabbed 8 times. The killer would have had blood on his sneakers top and bottom. Is it at all logical that perhaps Ward had blood on both the top and bottom of his sneakers and not ketchup as Hollar has stated? Is it possible that Frazer happened to be standing next to the car and Ward came running down the hill asking for a ride. Frazer, not wanting to get into a fight with a guy who has a bloody knife in his hand does as he is told? Is it possible he wanted to protect his pride so he told a partial truth? You say the jury made a leap to the wrong conclusion because Frazer said Ward banged on his door and the other 2 eye witnesses saw Ward run to a car just down the street.
The jury did their job to come to their conclusions in a fair, educated reasonable manner. What is not possible is for the police to give us an explanation as to why they refused to pick up the getaway car for months. We still have not received any explanation. The most outrages and contemptible result from the three previous trials is what happened to Jamie and how his murder has taken a back seat in this fiasco. This is no longer about Jamie’s murder or our loss. This is about people not listening when we tried to share information, people not crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s. It is certainly not about Justice. It really is true, victims of crime are murdered or raped by the perpetrator and then by the courts. Every time we have to return for more hearings and more trials Jamie is killed again and again and again.
The visions never leave my mind, my son, my baby boy lying there alone bleeding to death because he had a few bucks in his wallet. Oh how I cry out to Jamie, “Why didn’t you just give them the money?” A quote from the Daily News September 5 2009. “They (the Cockaynes) had the money to pay people off, but not to pay for their trip?” said Judge Hollar. We did not bribe or pay off anyone. Did Mr. Martens take advantage of us when we were in a very fragile state, maybe? Did he fulfill his commitment to pay us back when his parents returned, no. As written in the St. Thomas Source July 4, 2007, “We are receiving a lot of information from the community,” Police Commissioner James McCall said Wednesday, taking a quick break at the July 4th Parade. Cockayne’s family has put up a $10,000.00 reward, he said. In Judge Hollar’s Memorandum Opinion & Order dated July 23, 2010 page 29 Hollar stated, The court concludes that not only was the verdict against the weight of the evidence but, a serious miscarriage of justice will occur if Ward’s conviction stands. As for Judge Hollar inserting herself as thirteenth juror it does appear, she has, in my opinion come to her own conclusions and imposed them upon the jury and this entire community. The criminals are laughing while the innocent are dying in the streets.
Because of Hollar’s repeated public statements to the jury and the community, saying the evidence does not carry enough weight to convict and attempting to disenfranchise prosecution witnesses as well as publishing a public opinion showing a bias we ask Judge Hollar to recuse herself from this trial in the interest of justice. If possible reinstate the jury’s guilty verdict and sentence the guilty.
The Cockayne Family