2 men convicted of murder file for acquittal based on juror misconduct

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ST. CROIX - Two men convicted by a federal jury almost three years ago were in District Court on Friday for a hearing on a motion they filed seeking acquittal based on allegations of juror misconduct during their trial.

The motion seeking an acquittal or a new trial also revisits their claims that the prosecution did not prove the case against them.

Kalif Flanders and Gillian Harper both were found guilty in August 2011 of beating and killing Luis Orlando Encarnacion behind Evelyn Williams Elementary School in 2010.

Harper, 36, and Flanders, 26, were sentenced to life for their roles in the slaying of Encarnacion, 22, on the morning of May 13, 2010, as children were gathering for the school day.

Brief discussions on the motion took place during a hearing Friday before District Judge Raymond Finch because of confusion among the parties as to the purpose of the hearing.

The prosecution and defense attorneys agreed on re-scheduling the hearing June 3; Finch said he will be unavailable after that time until December.

Emile Henderson III, representing Flanders, and Anthony Kiture, representing Harper, had prepared to give the court arguments on their motions.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alphonso Andews, who prosecuted the case, said there was to be an evidenciary hearing, which would have resulted in the parties calling witnesses to give testimonies on their position.

Henderson and Kiture said the prosecution had a hearing before Magistrate Judge George Cannon, during which they were able to question the jurors outside the presence of the defense counsels, and the motions and order from the magistrate relative to the hearing had been kept under seal.

The defense attorneys requested time to review the transcript from the hearing and the voir dire portion of the selection before they can proceed with the hearing.

The jury returned guilty verdicts for both men on counts of first-degree murder, assault and weapons charges, including possession of a firearm in a school zone.

On each count, both defendants were charged with aiding and abetting each other in committing the crime.

According to the motion, even when the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the prosecution failed to establish each and every essential element of the offenses charged. In addition, the defense moved for a new trial because of misconduct by Juror No. 1 and Juror No. 6, who also was the jury foreman.

The motion states that it was discovered after the trial that both jurors were dishonest during the questioning portion of the jury selection process by failing to inform the court about relevant matters.

The defense contends that Juror No. 6 did not inform the court that he knew Encarnacion's family and that Juror No. 1 did not inform the court that at least three members of her immediate family had been victims of violent crimes, namely murder.

The prosecution contends that Flanders came to Encarnacion's house in Mount Pleasant the morning of the murder and walked Encarnacion to a field behind the school.

It was in that field, prosecutors argued, that Flanders and Harper beat Encarnacion with a sharp object - within site of children in the school yard - before dragging him into the bush and putting a bullet into his brain.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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