Shooting victim Cornelius John’s past, including his previous marriage, came into focus on Wednesday afternoon as the trial of government Senator Ashelle Morgan and Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Karim Nelson continued at the Mesopotamia Magistrate’s Court, sitting in Calliaqua.
John told the court that in addition to an auxiliary police officer and three police officers who responded immediately after he was shot at his Diamond Estate home, his daughter, Cornelia John, came to the scene and told him: “That good for you. You have more to get.’”
Ronald “Ronnie” Marks is representing Nelson, who is charged with wounding in connection with the April 13 shooting of John in his left leg at his home. Nelson is also charged with unlawfully discharging a firearm at John.
Morgan is also being tried before Magistrate Bertie Pompey on a charge that she assaulted John, also on April 13, at Diamond. The senator is represented by counsel Duane Daniel.
During Daniel’s cross examination, John said that he is a 63-year-old small business operator who makes concrete blocks and balusters.
He said that Nicole John, whose age he gave as 43, is his second wife. Asked if his wife is not at least 44 years old, John said, “could be”.
Daniel noted that Mrs. John had left the house in which she and her husband used to live. He asked John why.
As John was about to answer, the prosecutor, S. Stephen Brette, who is deputy director of public prosecution in St. Lucia, rose and objected, asking about the relevance of the question.
“We sat here and were treated to the planting of yams and farming and a lot of things that were, in my opinion, not relevant or disclosed in relation to the prosecution’s case prior, but understood all of that to be the background that the prosecutor was trying to build up a relationship between this man and his wife, which may have led to this entire episode,” Daniel responded.
He noted that in the examination-in-chief John said that he and his wife used to live in one house and no longer do. The lawyer argued that this is open to cross examination.
The prosecutor, however, asked what the relevance to the charge is. He said that during examination-in-chief, John was examined to establish what occurred on that day and why it occurred.
Brette said that the defence counsel had gone further to ask why John’s wife was no longer living in the house. “This may be more suitable to divorce court.”
At this point, Marks rose and suggested that the court ask John to wait outside while it entertained the legal arguments.
After John exited the courtroom, the prosecutor said that he could have asked John, in evidence-in-chief, why his wife left their home, but this was not relevant to the charge.
“All the evidence, including the photographic evidence, is that she lives in the house opposite,” Brette said, adding that to his mind, the reason that Mrs. John no longer lives with her husband is not relevant to him being shot and the alleged threat made to him.
Daniel said that part of the plank of his client’s case and defence “is the propensity of this witness to have a particular type of behaviour because it is on this witness’s credibility … and aspersion he is casting on my witness that he must be examined”.
Marks said that in relation to Nelson’s defence, “if we get to that, it is crucial to establish a pattern of behaviour that was responded to. The evidence that we have … we intend to cross examine him on his propensity to violence not only in this relationship but before”.
Meanwhile, said that the disclosure which was given by the prosecutor “speaks to a reason in relation to the difficulty and the issues that were in that marriage”.
He said that one of the witnesses that the prosecution intends to call, disclosed “the tumultuous nature of this relationship”, adding that it is disingenuous for the prosecution to disclose these issues, lead part of it in examination-in-chief, then object to it in cross examination.
The magistrate permitted the question.
When John returned to the dock, Daniel asked him why his wife had left the house in which they both lived.
“Me and one of my sons had a quarrel — a problem, an issue that involved the police. When they come to the police station, the sergeant that deal with the case—” John was saying when Daniel said “ok and asked him if there was an issue between him and his son.
John said, “Yes.”
Daniel asked if there was an altercation and if it involved the police. John responded in the affirmative to both questions.
In his evidence-in-chief, John told the court that he lives in the same house as he did in April 2021 and that his wife was living in a house “over the road, the opposite side” from him. The complainant pointed out about 75 feet as the distance between both houses and said that there is a road between them.
John said that he and wife were living together from 1995 to Dec. 31, 2020 and have three children together, one of which is female.
He said that he knows Morgan as a Diamond resident. “I know her from the time she was going primary school.”
John said that he did not know if his wife and Morgan are friends “but I saw them together oftentimes” beginning in December 2020. Between then and April 2021, he saw the women together about six times, including four times between April 1 and 13, 2021.
John said that his wife and Morgan would be together from around 9 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. except for on April 13, when he was at home around 3:45 p.m. and saw them together. He told the court that a car that Morgan drives would come down the road and his wife would go away with Morgan in the car.
John said he was upset about his wife going away with Morgan in the car because Mrs. John was not helping him with the business, as she had been accustomed to. In the business, Mrs. John used to write bills for customers, pay workers, and assist in the production of blocks and balusters, her husband told the court.
He said that on the evenings when Mrs. John came home around 8:30 p.m., she would exit the same car in which she had left, but he would not recognise the driver. On April 13, John first saw his wife at 9 a.m. at her home and they spoke and made a 1 p.m. appointment to meet at the farm that same day.
After the conversation, Mrs. John went into the house where she was living and took some Sevens powder that her husband had given her to carry to the farm. Mrs. John then “went for her things — her bags — to go with Ms Morgan…” her husband told the court.
“I was on my way to the farm and I was standing at Nicole gate then Ms Morgan car came down. My wife said she is going. The car is heavily tint so I can’t see inside the car … I left and proceeded to my farm.” John told the court that the farm is located near the Windward Highway.
The complainant said that when he went to the farm that day, he planted yams and did not see his wife appear on the farm.
John said he called his wife several times but she did not answer the phone and after he left a voice message on the phone, Mrs. John returned a call two minutes later and they spoke “and she agreed that she would come”. However, Mrs. John did not turn up at the farm by the time her husband went home around 3:30 p.m.
John testified that he was looking out the kitchen window when he saw Ms Morgan’s car come down the hill and stopped at Mrs. John’s gate about 3:45 p.m. Mrs. John exited the car and “Ms Morgan drive away”. After Mrs. John went into the house, John called out “Nicole!” and she came out. He then spoke to her “about her behaviour,” John told the court.
After they spoke, John said, he went out on the porch and sat down. He said he did not threaten his wife.
“About 6:30 p.m., I was coming out of the kitchen door of the house. As I approached the door, I saw three persons heading for the back of the yard,” John told the court.
He said he opened the door and came outside. “I said, ‘Hello!’ They turned back. I sat down on the blocks in the porch. It is in the middle of the porch. The tallest one in the crowd said, ‘Mr. John!’
“I said, ‘Good evening, sir!’ He said, ‘You want to kill the senator?’ I said, ‘What you talking about?’ Then I said, ‘Leave my family alone. I am an old man. I need my wife to assist me in my business.'”
John said that of the three people who came to his yard, he recognised Morgan and the two others were two males, one taller than the other.
“They make a formation around me. I was sitting on the blocks,” John said, adding that the taller male was on his left, Morgan was on his right, and the shorter of the men was behind him (John).
John said that the taller person, who later shot him, “had on mask, he had on a cap on his head, and a jean pants”. The taller man was wearing “a jersey with camouflage or something like that”. The shorter man “had on a jeans but I didn’t pay too much attention to him because he was behind my back,” John said. Morgan had on “a jacket over what she had on and a jeans pants”.
John said that when he first saw the three people they were about 25 feet away from him. He pointed out to the court a distance of about 12 to 14 feet between him and the taller man when they made the “formation”, three feet between he (John) and Morgan and about three feet between him (John) and the shorter guy who was to his back.
“While I was speaking, the taller guy run off and kick me off the blocks. I fell on the ground. The blocks fell on the ground. The taller guy off balance and went into the plywood that I have by the window sill. He got up and he began to stomp me on my chest and my belly. While he was stomping on me, I felt stool come out of my inside, mess up my skin. The shorter guy jump between me and the tall guy. He said to him, ‘You don’t have to do that. It don’t call for all that,’” John told the court.
“I said, ‘You all come to kill me? I am a living dead already.’ Then the tall one pull his gun from his waist and he crank his gun. I was on the ground lying. The shorter one make another attempt to push himself between me and the taller guy. The taller one swing away from the shorter guy — shift his body from him and pull my foot. He had the gun in his hand. He was fumbling with the gun between his right hand and his left hand. While he was fumbling, he fit the gun in his right hand and pull my foot again with his left hand and shoot me in my foot.”
John said he was on his back when all this was happening.
The complainant further told the court:
“When he shoot me, I fly up on my bottom. The short one suck his teeth. When I get the bullet I grabbed on to the short one. He said, ‘Let me go.’ And he walked over me and leave the yard. Ms Morgan then come around in front of me point a gun in my face and said, ‘If you call my effing name, I’ll shoot you in your mouth.’”
The prosecutor asked John if Morgan said “effing” and he said yes.
“The taller one leave before her and they run out the yard and up the road,” John said and told the court that he was still sitting on his bottom when the trio left.
“I holler out, ‘Alyo shoot me in my foot and left me here!’ By hollering out, my neighbour, who is an auxiliary police [officer], came to my rescue. She turned on her phone light and look at me and then called her common-law husband, who is a police officer, then the auxiliary police gave me her phone to speak to her husband on the phone.”
John said that three police officers later arrived and identified themselves.
At this point, the prosecutor rose and asked the court, based on the principle of res gestae — a certain exemption to the hearsay rule — to allow the witness to say what he told the police.
The defence did not oppose the objection.
“I told the police I got shot in my foot. I told them Ms Morgan bring two man with she in the yard and shoot me,” John told the court.
He said that the police officer spoke to the auxiliary officer and then he (John) spoke to her and the auxiliary officer went into the house and took some clothes off the line.
“I took one of the jersey that she brought and tie above the knee. I took one and tied the wound and I keep two with me.”
John said the police placed him in the back of a private vehicle and took him to the Calliaqua Police Station. There, they transferred him to a police pickup truck and took him to Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, where he was warded for four days.
After being discharged, John went back to the hospital every two weeks for eight weeks, after which the cast on his foot was removed. “After they took off the cast, I examined my foot. It was burnt like if you roast cattle head,” John told the court.
He said he underwent surgery twice to remove bullet fragments from his foot.
John said that between the time the three people spoke to him and when the taller of the men shot him, he saw Mrs. John on her porch.
He said that during the time of the entire incident, when he stood up off the block, the shorter guy pushed him down by the shoulder.
Three to four minutes elapsed between the time when the taller guy kicked him and when he shot him, John said. Five minutes elapsed between the time he was shot and when he saw the auxiliary police officer, John told the court.
He said that he did not invite the three people to his home on the night that he was shot nor did he give them permission to enter his property.
John said that at no time between when he first saw the three people and when they left did he have a cutlass in his hand.
At 1:26 p.m., one hour and 52 minutes after his testimony began, John sought and obtained the court’s permission to sit, saying that his legs hurt.
Morgan and Nelson sat throughout the hearing, which began at 10:13 a.m., broke at 1:28 p.m. for lunch, resumed at 2:32 p.m., and was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.
Daniel’s cross examination of John commenced after the lunch break.
As the cross examination continued, John told the court that the incident that resulted in him and his wife not living together occurred at the block yard and not at their home.
He said that he did not break up anything at his house the day of the incident or anytime “that year”, but had broken up things in the past.
“That was out of anger?” Daniel asked, and John responded, “No. Out of disrespect.”
“You had a violent action because you felt disrespected?” Daniel said.
“Not felt. I was disrespected,” John said.
He said he did not throw out his family. “They left by advice from the police — the sergeant who was in charge.”
John told the court that the fact that his wife was away and not helping in the business upset him, but to his mind, Morgan was not the person facilitating Mrs. John not helping out in the business.
“So you are happy then that she was leaving with Ms Morgan but upset that she was not helping out?” Daniel said.
“Not happy to say joyful; I was upset. We have two mortgage to pay, Courts to pay and we have a loan at GECCU… Me and my wife went and take out all these loans and they need to pay, including the house… She was not helping me and the bills were running up. I alone struggling and she was with me when I take them out so I figure it is just right that she stay with me and get the mortgage pay.”
John told the court that Morgan was not the only person his wife was going out with. “She used to be doing other things for other people. As they ask her, she would forsake her duties and go her way.”
He said he felt disrespected because of his wife’s action.
“And we all know what you do when you feel disrespected?” Daniel said.
“No,” John said and the prosecution objected, saying that such statements were for closing arguments.
“Point made,” Daniel responded.
When it was put to him, John denied being abusive to his wife on April 13.
Asked if Mrs. John were to say he was being verbally abusive if that would be a lie, John said that that would be “based on what she calls verbal abuse”. He said that he judges his behaviour on the word of God as he is a godly man.
Daniel then put it to John that he threatened his wife on April 13. “What say you, man of God?” Daniel said and John responded in the negative.
He responded similarly when the defence counsel put it to him that he was abusive to his wife before April 2021, that he was physically abusive to her on April 13.
John said that when he called his wife after she left with Morgan on April 13, he did not tell her to come home.
He said he asked her where she was, as they had had an agreement and it was his intention for his wife to meet him “as we had agreed”.
John said that in none of the calls that he made between when his wife left with Morgan and when she returned did he call Mrs John and threaten to kill her, threaten to kill her grandchildren, threaten to kill her children, to get a machine gun to kill her with, or to chop off her neck.
“Didn’t you threaten her on one of those calls to sacrifice her head and blood to the devil, you godly man?” Daniel asked.
John said that was not the case and told the court that his wife would be lying if she said he had threatened her on that day.
He denied threatening his wife after she returned to Diamond
The defence counsel asked John if he would not feel disrespected because his wife did not keep the 1 p.m. appointment that he said they had had.
“That has nothing to do with feelings,” John said.
“So, you are a robot?” Daniel retorted.
“No. Disrespect is disrespect. You disrespect when you are supposed to be doing something and you don’t do it.” John said that his wife’s action was disrespectful to him.
He denied that he began cursing Morgan while she was still in the vehicle at the point of dropping off Mrs. John or that he was cursing when Morgan drove off.
‘Dark as to how?’
Under further cross examination, John said that the shooting incident happened around 6:30 p.m. He said it was “dark as night had reach in but not dark, dark”.
“So, there are two different sorts of night?” Daniel said.
“You have nights without light and you have nights with light. You have nights without the moon and you have nights with the moon. You have nights without a street light and you have nights where a streetlight is.”
Daniel called John an astronomer and again asked him if it was dark and he responded, “Dark as to how?”
“Was the sun in the sky?” Daniel asked. John answered no and responded in the affirmative to the question, “Had the sun already set?”
Daniel noted to John that in his evidence-in-chief, he said that the taller of the men asked him, “You want to kill the senator?” and John responded “What you talking about? Leave my family alone…” The defence counsel asked John to who he was saying that.
John said no one in particular.
Daniel put it to John that he was referring to Morgan and John responded, “No.”
The lawyer further put it to John that he had made the statement about leaving his family because he was angry.
“I was not angry,” John said.
He further said that he had not responded aggressively to the trio. He said that it is true that the shorter of the men told him, “Relax. Relax.”
“And he was asking you to calm down and sit down. Isn’t that so?” Daniel asked.
“No, he said, ‘Relax.”
John said that Morgan pointed the gun at him about 25 seconds after the shorter of the men left.
He said that the gun that Morgan pointed at him is different from the one with which the taller of the men shot him.
“So as far as you are aware, this was her gun?” Daniel said.
“I don’t know whose gun. I saw her with the gun,” John told the court, adding that he does not know where Morgan got the gun from.
He said that Morgan’s hands were in her jacket pockets and she pulled out the gun from there.
“She had it in her right hand,” John said. He told the court that me and Morgan were three feet apart and he did not have a good look at the gun.
Daniel noted that John had told the court that Morgan told him, “If you call my effing name, I shoot you in your mouth.”
The lawyer asked John several times whether he was being polite when he said Morgan said, “effing” or whether she had, in fact, said, “f**king”.
“I said, ‘effing’,” John said.
Daniel put it to John that he never told the police that Morgan used the word “effing”.
“It could be just ‘shoot you in your mouth’ that I told the police,” John said.
John said that the first person who came to his assistance was Ms Franklyn (auxiliary officer) but he can’t remember if he told Franklyn that Morgan had a gun.
Daniel put it to John that he never told Franklyn that Morgan had a gun.
“I can’t accept that,” John said.
Asked whether he had told the police officers who came on the scene after the shooting that Morgan has a gun, John said:
“The police did not question me. I did not give them a statement. I did not tell them that Ms Morgan had a gun.”
Asked whether he had told the police who first came on the scene that Morgan had used any threatening word, John responded:
“When the police first arrived at the scene, I had no telling with the police …”
Daniel pointed out that John had said in his evidence-in-chief, “When the police arrived on the scene, I told the police I got shot in my foot. Ms Morgan bring two men in the yard.”
“Which police?” John said.
The prosecutor objected to Daniel’s question, saying it had been asked and answered.
The magistrate permitted the question and Daniel asked John if when the incident was fresh, he had told any of the police who came on the scene that Morgan had threatened him.
“When the incident was fresh, I did not communicate with the police. They communicate with me,” John said.
“But you spoke with the police. How can you say you did not communicate with them?” Daniel replied.
“I answer what they asked me,” John said.
The magistrate noted that communication is somebody transmitting and somebody receiving. He, however, said that he would have to accept John as a layperson.
The prosecutor said that is correct.
Daniel, however, noted that Brette had made an application under the res gestae rule specifically to have John tell the court what he told the police on the scene.
Brette rose to address the court and Marks asked that John be excused during the legal arguments.
After John was excused, the prosecutor said that John is a layperson, as the court had observed and taken judicial note of.
He said that John had told the court what he said to the police and the magistrate is both the tribunal of law and fact.
Brette reasoned said Daniel could cure the problem by addressing the court during closing arguments “rather than badgering the witness”.
The prosecutor said that it appeared that there is “a communication problem, understanding problem, with vocabulary being that he (John) is a layperson”.
He said that seeing that John is a layperson, Daniel is “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Daniel could address the court in closing arguments and say that John spoke to the police and did not say so, Brette argued.
In response, Daniel said he has a right to conduct his case as sees fit. He further said that John “cannot be so disingenuous … — he cannot be a man of intelligence when the prosecutor asks him, ‘What you said to the police?’ but be a layman when the defence asks’, “When you spoke to the police you did not say that.”
“This case turns largely on credibility,” Daniel said.
The magistrate said that John had said that the police spoke to him and it could be that he did not speak to the police.
Daniel argued that that could not be true in light of what John had said in his evidence-in-chief, when he was asked what he said to the police.
Marks rose and said that the prosecutor was trying to argue lack of intelligence for someone who was “obviously evading the question”.
Marks said that there is a reason why the defence did not object to the res gestae application.
“One would think that if a crime is committed it would be reported to the first person on the scene. And his not saying anything and being cagy about it says a lot,” Marks argued, noting that John had clearly told the court the words that he said to the police.
The lawyer said that John never told the court that Ms Morgan threatened him.
The prosecutor said that there is no rule of law that says that a witness has to say at the scene of a crime everything that happened.
Marks agreed but said that it says a lot if the witness does not.
The magistrate ruled that to be fair to the defendants he would give them the benefit of the doubt and permit the question.
John was recalled to the dock and Daniel asked John if he agreed that in response to the prosecution’s question about what he told the police at the scene he told the court, “I told the police that I got shot in my foot. Ms Morgan bring two man with she in the yard.”
John said he had spoken to the police on the phone when his neighbour came by.
The magistrate read from the record what John had said in response to the question and the record corresponded with what Daniel quoted John as having said.
The lawyer asked John whether he agreed that he never told the court in his evidence-in-chief that he had told the three police officers who came on the scene that Morgan used threatening words to him.
John said that he did not give the police a statement.
In a sidebar with Counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste — who has a watching brief in the matter and will defend John on a charge that he used threatening language to Morgan — Daniel said he was not disputing the fact that John told the police of the alleged threat weeks later, in a written statement.
Daniel put it to John that the reason he did not tell the three police officers who came on the scene that Morgan had a gun or that she used threatening words to him is because it never happened.
“That’s not true,” John said.
Daniel’s cross examination ended at 4:02 p.m. and the court was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.
The trial resumes today (Thursday) at 11 a.m.