St. Croix jury finds Encarnacion not guilty of murder trial


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ST. CROIX - A V.I. Superior Court jury deliberated for just more than four hours Tuesday before finding Jomar Encarnacion not guilty of murdering Misael Morales and robbing him of his valuables in March 2012.

Encarnacion was charged with first-degree murder; felony murder; first-degree robbery; reckless endangerment; and unauthorized use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. He was accused of shooting Morales, 22, as they walked on a dirt path in Estate Castle Coakley with a third man - Chayanne Trinidad - who initially also was charged in the murder.

Testimony in the case that began a week ago before V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks wrapped up on Monday, and when jurors returned to the courtroom Tuesday morning, they went directly into deliberations.

Jurors sent out two separate notes to the judge during the deliberations and broke for lunch just after noon. After returning to continue deliberations at about 1:30 p.m., they indicated to the court about 45 minutes later that they had come to a unanimous verdict on each of the counts against Encarnacion.

As the foreperson stood to read the verdict aloud, Encarnacion and his attorney, Charles Lockwood, also stood. Lockwood placed his left hand on his client's shoulder as they both faced the jury. One by one the verdicts were read aloud for each of the five counts charged against him.

Jurors found Encarnacion not guilty on all of the charges with the exception of the reckless endangerment charge.

Encarnacion's mother, who had been in the courtroom throughout the trial, smiled through tears that were streaming down her face.

Assistant Attorneys General Andrette Watson and Kip Roberson both refused to comment on the verdict.

Lockwood said outside the courtroom that his client is relieved that the jurors were able to bring forth justice for him and said that he plans to continue to fight for an acquittal on 100 percent of the charges.

There is still an additional motion for dismissal outstanding that Willocks has reserved ruling on and said he will issue an order in writing when his decision is made.

With the not guilty verdicts handed up, motions for dismissals on those charges are moot, but Willocks could grant a dismissal on the final charge.

Lockwood said the case was a tragedy and no matter what happened, Morales could not be brought back. He said his client was wrongly accused and screamed his innocence for four years, and the case had to be played out in the public to show that there are innocent people charged for crimes they did not commit.

Trinidad, who testified for the prosecution, initially had been charged with the murder, but charges were dismissed after he told police his version of what happened that night. He pleaded guilty to making a false report and was sentenced to probation.

During his testimony last week, Trinidad admitted to stealing a cell phone from the dead man and later selling it, but he said Encarnacion was the one who shot Morales.

Lockwood, called about a half dozen witnesses who placed Encarnacion on the car track for more than four hours during the time that murder was said to have occurred.

Lockwood, in his closing arguments Monday, said Morales and Encarnacion were great friends and Encarnacion had no motive to kill Morales. He said Trinidad was unemployed and looked at Morales as a meal ticket, and even as Morales pulled out money as he bought him drinks at the bar, he was plotting how he could take it and shot Morales.

He said Trinidad made up a story and convinced the police that he was a witness and the police never followed up with any of Encarnacion's alibi witnesses or other information that would have proven Encarnacion's story.

Encarnacion remains released on house arrest, pending sentencing, which has been set for Sept. 5.

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

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