Men cleared in slaying of Shamal Smith


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ST. THOMAS - Both men accused of murdering 24-year-old Shamal Smith in February 2012 are free men after the judge granted a full acquittal for one of them, and the jury found the other not guilty on all counts.

Kahleem Rieara, who was 33 at the time of the shooting, and Ira Haywood, who was 31, both were facing charges of first-degree murder, along with 11 other serious counts of violence, since their arrests in 2012.

Their simultaneous trials began last week in V.I. Superior Court on July 28 before Judge Adam Christian. Three days into the trial, Haywood's attorney, Stylish Willis, submitted a motion for a Rule 29 acquittal.

The defendant can motion for such an acquittal after the prosecution has rested its case, and the defendant thereafter argues that the prosecution's evidence is insufficient.

After one of the prosecution's witnesses, a woman who supposedly could have identified Haywood, or someone who looked like him, at the scene of the crime, folded on the witness stand, breaking into tears.

Christian granted the defense motion soon after.

Rieara, represented by attorney Steven Russell, continued on without his co-defendant through Friday evening, after which point the jury went into deliberation about 6 p.m. They only took two or so hours before coming back with their verdict: not guilty on all counts.

Both defendants had faced 12 counts in total, including: first-degree murder; second-degree murder; two counts of attempted first-degree murder; three counts of first-degree assault; three counts of third-degree assault; reckless endangerment and unauthorized use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

If convicted of first-degree murder, they would have had to serve mandatory life sentences.

"The government didn't do their due diligence," said Willis. "They arrested these two persons without looking into the facts."

The prosecution cannot re-try either defendant, which only would have been possible had the judge dismissed either Haywood's or Rieara's case without prejudice.

"They need to go back out there," Willis said, noting that the real perpetrator, or perpetrators, is still out there.

Smith had been hiding under a truck when a gunman found him and shot at him head-on while he was laying on his stomach, according to the opening statement of Russell.

The fatal bullet grazed Smith's ear, went straight through his shoulder and pierced his heart, killing him immediately, on the evening of Feb. 24, 2012, in the Paul M. Pearson Gardens housing community on St. Thomas, Russell said.

In his opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Douglas Sprotte, the lead prosecutor, told the jury that Rieara and Haywood were the shooters and that by the trial's end, the jury of 11 women and one man would agree.

Aside from the one witness who was unable to testify, the jury also heard from an off-duty V.I. Police officer; a deaf neighbor who identified Rieara as one of the shooters; and two musicians shot in the line of fire, including V.I. celebrity and reggae musician Delyno "Pressure" Brown. None of the three victims had weapons, according to the V.I. Police.

Brown, who had been in town at the time for a "big show" in the upcoming days, according to Russell, had been using Smith as one of his promotional assistants.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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