V.I. Supreme Court dismisses case blaming government for murder involving cop
Published: October 17, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - In a civil suit that found convicted murderer and former V.I. Police officer Joel Dowdye and the V.I. government as co-defendants, The V.I. Supreme Court dismissed the claims of the mother of the woman Dowdye killed.
After Dowdye was convicted of shooting and killing Caroley Brunn's daughter in 2006, Brunn tried to sue the V.I. government by claiming that the government should have known not to hire Dowdye.
In its ruling issued Friday, the Supreme Court found that Brunn provided insufficient evidence that the government was negligent when it hired Dowdye as a police officer.
In May 2008, the V.I. Superior Court found Dowdye, now 45, guilty of first-degree murder and numerous other charges stemming from the murder of Dowdye's ex-girlfriend, Sherett James, 22, and the attempted murder of her companion, Daren Stevens.
The two had been rooming together at Bunker Hill Inn when Dowdye barged in on them and shot James twice in the head and Stevens twice as well.
Stevens, who was 32 at the time of Dowdye's jury trial in 2007, was a V.I. Bureau of Corrections officer and testified that he had tried to write Dowdye's name in blood in case he died, according to past reports from The Daily News.
The trial was controversial after one of the jurors was accused of making covert Masonic signals to Dowdye and subsequently was dismissed from the trial.
The juror, Joel Lloyd, was brought back to court on a later date to testify under oath. He denied the allegations that he had been trying to communicate with Dowdye.
Dowdye was convicted of six of the eight original felony charges: first-degree murder; using a dangerous weapon during the commission of that crime; attempted first-degree murder; using a dangerous weapon during the commission of that crime; first-degree assault; and using a dangerous weapon during the commission of that crime.
Still, Brunn did not think that the conviction and mandatory life sentence that accompanies it was enough.
In 2007, Brunn filed a complaint suing Dowdye for wrongful death and the V.I. government for negligent hiring and retention, as well as negligent training and supervision of Dowdye and other officers.
The government responded in 2009, stating that Brunn's had provided insufficient notice of her claim, and that she had no grounds for her claim.
The government asserted that "Dowdye had acted outside the scope of his employment when he killed James," Cabret wrote in the opinion.
In its ruling Friday written by Associate Justice Maria Cabret, the Supreme Court agreed with the government that "committing premeditated murder is outside the scope of a police officer's employment."
However, the opinion did note Brunn's complaint that the government had kept Dowdye as an officer even after he allegedly was "involved in a domestic violence incident in which he assaulted James," Cabret wrote.
"And while this allegation may support her negligence action, Brunn did not indicate in her notice that this incident was the underlying factual basis of her claim," Cabret wrote.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.