Trial begins for two men accused of killing man in Pearson Gardens
Published: July 29, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - Attorneys defending the two men accused of murdering 24-year-old Shamal Smith in February 2012 made no effort in the first day of trial on Monday to lead the jury to believe that Smith's murder was anything but merciless.
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 Steven Russell, attorney for one of the defendants, Kahleem Rieara.
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.
Defense attorneys in their opening statements insist that their clients - Rieara and Ira Haywood - were not the men responsible for Smith's murder. Rieara was 33 at the time of the shooting, and Haywood, represented by attorney Stylish Willis, was 31.
Each is charged with 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.
In his opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Douglas Sprotte 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.
The jury will hear from a host of witnesses, including an off-duty V.I. Police officer who identified Haywood as one of the shooters; a deaf neighbor who identified Rieara as one of the shooters; and two musicians wounded in the shootout, including V.I. celebrity and reggae musician Delyno "Pressure" Brown.
Smith, Brown and the other musician were unarmed, according to Sprotte.
Brown is expected to testify along with the other musician, who initially was not named. Both were shot when they fled from the scene, Brown in the leg and the other man in the side.
It was not until he reached his grandmother's home that Brown realized he had been shot, according to Sprotte. The other musician's wound was more serious, and he had to spend a month in the hospital, Sprotte said.
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.
While the attorneys had their chance to speak to the jury Monday, the witnesses will get their chances today and in the days following. It is not yet known whether the defendants, both of whom wore just a few braids in their hair, will testify. Rieara, who wore a camel colored suit in court on Monday, nodded and shook his head, appearing engaged in his attorney's statement to the jury. Haywood was less noticeably involved.
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