Published: August 3, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Gaius Moncherry's defense attorney, Leigh Goldman, began his closing argument Thursday in his client's murder trial with a bang - literally.
After listening to arguments from Assistant Attorney General Edward Veronda and Curdilius Moncherry's defense attorney, Paula Norkaitis, Goldman asked V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar for a recess so his client could use the rest room.
Ten minutes later, when the court reconvened, the attorneys re-entered and Hollar nodded toward Goldman.
The courtroom grew quiet, then Goldman, still seated between the Moncherry brothers, banged on the table in front of him.
"I believe I'm quoting Attorney Veronda on that," Goldman said.
Earlier in the day, Veronda, who used the word "murder" four times in the opening seconds of his summation, made a similar gesture simulating an eyewitness' account of the Sept. 5, 2010, beating at Frydenhoj ballpark that took the life of Kerwin Williams. The Moncherry brothers are charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and first-degree assault in connection with Williams' death.
The eyewitness could not identify Curdilius and Gaius Moncherry but watched the altercation from a distance of about 120 yards, Veronda said.
"He just saw this," Veronda said, running in place. "And then this."
He brought down a fist five times on the chair in front of him to imitate the blows to Williams.
The decibel level rose at several other points in Hollar's courtroom Thursday as the trial of the Moncherry brothers drew to a close. The five strikes were repeated throughout Goldman's argument and again in Veronda's response. Veronda also replayed a recorded interview with Curdilius Moncherry in which he admitted to striking Williams with a baseball bat.
Goldman's voice boomed as he tried to persuade the jury that the government's prosecution "is nothing if not damnable and despicable." The brothers, he argued, acted strictly in self-defense after Williams attacked Curdilius Moncherry with a knife, opening a three-inch gash across his throat.
"At that point, Gaius Moncherry could either get in the fight or possibly see his brother murdered," Goldman said. "I can't contemplate how I would go home to my mother if I just sat there and watched my brother get murdered."
Norkaitis, who described the prosecution's case as "a quilt of lies," also emphasized the wound to Curdilius Moncherry.
"How do you defend yourself when someone tries to cut your head off?" she said.
Veronda, on the other hand, argued that testimony and crime scene photographs show the brothers acted with malice because enough time and distance lapsed between the beginning and the end of the fight for the brothers to have fled. He also pointed out they had a car ready and waiting for them, and asked why, if they were so afraid of Williams, they did not simply get in the car and drive away.
Veronda further pointed to an eyewitness account that described Williams as trying to run away from the brothers after Curdilius Moncherry struck him with a bat. But Williams tripped on his baggy pants and fell face-first to the ground. Curdilius Moncherry then sat on Williams' back and held up Williams' head by Williams' dreadlocks while Gaius Moncherry landed more blows - at least five - with a piece of wood, according to the eyewitness.
After that, the brothers had options, Veronda argued. They could seek medical help for Curdilius' neck, or they could go to the police and explain what happened.
"But what did they do?" Veronda said. "No police, no doctor."
Either one, he said, would have appeared less suspicious than what the brothers chose, which was to flee the island that night by boat to Tortola, hoping to catch a flight the next day to St. Lucia, their native island.
"There's a saying: 'Only the guilty flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion,'" Veronda said.
As the Moncherrys' parents looked on from one side of the courtroom, and Williams' siblings watched from the other, Veronda acknowledged the tragedy for both parties.
"But it's guaranteed that the family of Kerwin Williams would rather be sitting here with Kerwin Williams in that seat than in a body bag," Veronda said, pointing toward the brothers.
For all the noise early in the day, the jury ended Thursday quietly. After about two-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jurors sent the judge a note about 7 p.m. asking for a recess until the morning. Hollar readily granted the request.
"I think we've abused you enough for today," she said.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.