Prosecution builds murder case on victim's dying ID: 'Snake, Snake'
Published: October 16, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Prosecutors on Monday began building a murder case against 21-year-old Kemoy Thompson by arguing that the victim would not tell a lie as he died.
"No one wants to die with a lie on their lips," Assistant Attorney General Edward Veronda told the jury in V.I. Superior Court.
Veronda said the victim, Curtiss Thomas was shot two or three times in the early afternoon on Sept. 20, 2009, in the area of Frydenhoj, between the National Guard armory and the former Domino gas station. After he was shot, Thomas drove to the Domino station, took two steps out of the car and collapsed, Veronda said. Thomas was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day.
Veronda said Thomas' back was turned to the shooter when the first shot was fired, then Thomas turned around and faced the shooter.
"Curtiss Thomas is the best eyewitness in this case," Veronda said. "Only he knows why he was shot and who did it. But you're not going to be able to hear from him today because he's dead."
However, the prosecution does intend to include testimony from V.I. Police Officer Annette Turnbull, who responded to a 911 call about Thomas being shot, Veronda said.
At the gas station, Turnbull knelt down next to Thomas and asked who shot him.
"Snake, Snake," Veronda whispered into the courtroom microphone.
Turnbull checked with Thomas to make sure she had heard him correctly, and the officer connected the nickname to Thompson, whom she knew from prior work as a school resource officer.
But attorneys for Thompson dispute the nickname belongs to their client. In brief oral arguments prior to the start of the trial Monday morning, attorney Kyle Waldner successfully argued against including a 911 call record that identifies Thompson as the shooter. He also asked the judge to empanel a new jury because he felt the court had endorsed "Snake" as Thompson's nickname.
Judge Brenda Hollar rejected the request, arguing the nickname is part of Thompson's arrest record.
During her opening argument, Susan Moorehead, Thompson's other defense attorney, maintained her client was not responsible for Thomas' death.
"Mr. Thompson sits here an innocent man," Moorehead said.
Moorehead said the defense is not disputing the tragedy of another shooting death in the territory.
"That doesn't mean we have to compound the tragedy by convicting an innocent man," she said.
Moorehead said the government is choosing to ignore holes in the case and is "hanging its hat on one single fact, one single gasped word heard by one single person."
"You're going to be wondering why so much evidence isn't presented to you," Moorehead said.
V.I. Police Detective Albion George's affidavit for Thompson's arrest is based on three unidentified eyewitnesses. One told police that about two months before the shooting, Thomas and Thompson were seen arguing about $900 that Thomas supposedly owed Thompson for a gun.
"Mr. Thomas further told witness #1 that the gun was not working and when he tried to take the gun back to Mr. Thompson, Mr. Thompson told him 'nah, nah' he wants his money," George wrote.
Gunshot residue also was found on Thompson's left hand, according to the affidavit.
Thompson is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and unauthorized use of a firearm during the commission of each of those crimes.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.