Superior Court judge dismisses murder charges against LaMotta
Published: October 5, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - More than two years after he was accused of committing first-degree murder, Keith LaMotta Jr. walked out of court a free man Thursday morning.
V.I. Superior Court Judge Adam Christian dismissed the case against LaMotta, 28, who was charged in connection with the 2010 shooting death of Samuel Cornelius in Nadir Circle. Christian's ruling came after LaMotta's defense attorney, Samuel Joseph, made a motion for acquittal Wednesday night at the close of the prosecution's case.
Rules of criminal procedure require a court to acquit a defendant if, after the government closes its case or all evidence has been submitted, there is insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.
"The basis of my motion was that after viewing all of the evidence in a way most favorable to the government, no reasonable jury could convict my client," Joseph said.
The case hit turbulence even before it formally began, with two members of the jury revealing that they know the defendant's mother only after they had already been placed on the jury panel.
Before opening arguments began, a third juror faced questions about a conversation a defense witness claimed to have overheard during lunch on Monday in which the juror allegedly discussed the case outside of the courtroom.
When the prosecution, led by Assistant Attorneys General Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte and Charles Willoughby Jr., finally began its case, other problems arose. Prosecutors were unable to submit a 911 call record into evidence, and their first witness strayed from the story he told police in 2010.
Though experts later testified to the presence of gunshot residue on LaMotta's clothes on the day of the shooting, no witnesses or evidence ever directly tied LaMotta to a firearm.
"It was one of those cases they should have disposed of," Joseph said. "There was no evidence."
Calls to Renee Gumbs-Carty, the chief of the Attorney General's Criminal Division, were not returned.
Joseph said his client is just happy to be able to move on with his life.
"I had faith in the system that it would work out fairly for my client, and it did," Joseph said.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.