Senator Ashelle Morgan and the two men who went with her to Cornelius John’s home on April 13 moments before he was shot, had, moments earlier, stopped at the nearby home of a senior detective and asked whether the officer was at home.
This was the testimony of Roshel Franklyn, the detective’s girlfriend and John’s neighbour, who told the court that she did not recognise Morgan when the trio spoke to her before the shooting.
Yesterday, Thursday, Nov. 18, Morgan, a lawyer, was acquitted of a charge of assaulting John. The court ruled similar in relation to Karim Nelson, an assistant director of public prosecution, who was tried for wounding John and unlawfully discharging a firearm at him.
The ruling came one week after Franklyn took to the stand in a trial that went on for six days, twice as long as the Crown had anticipated.
iWitness News can now report on the evidence of the case as court had barred the media from doing do during the trial.
Franklyn took the stand at 3:31 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, Day 2 of the hearing, which commenced at 11:21 a.m. that day — 21 minutes later than scheduled.
Franklyn told the Mesopotamia Magistrate’s Court, sitting in Calliaqua, that she lives in Diamond and had been living there for five years before April 2021.
She said she lives with her boyfriend, Sergeant 6 Alexander and a minor.
Franklyn said she knows John from seeing him driving his vehicle through the village on his way to work and also at his home.
They live 100 feet apart, the auxiliary officer told the court.
She further said that she knows Morgan from seeing her driving past her (Franklyn’s) home every morning, leaving for work.
Franklyn said that before April 2021 she has seen Morgan driving through the village every day for the five years that she has been living in Diamond.
Asked if she saw Morgan in court that day, Franklyn pointed to Morgan seated in the area reserved for the defendants.
‘I heard like a gun crank and a single shot fired’ — witness
Franklyn said she recalled April 13, about 7:15 p.m. “I was sitting in my porch at home. While I was there sitting, a gentleman came to my gate and asked if ‘Six’ is home. I said, ‘No.’ I saw another gentleman in a bucket hat, dressed in a red and white long sleeve and a jeans.
“A female was dressed also in a black and white hoodie long sleeve, also with a jeans. The person who spoke to me was dressed in a camouflage SSU long sleeve with a jeans — black or blue. He had on glasses with a sanitary mask and a cap as well.”
“When I said Six was not there, he said ‘Ok’ and walked away. After they walked away, I turned in the direction that they were walking towards. Then I saw them enter Mr. John’s yard.”
The prosecutor in the case is S. Stephen Brette, deputy director of public prosecution in St. Lucia, who has been retained to prosecute the matter.
Brette asked Franklyn if she recognised the female, and she said, “Not until after.”
She said that after the trio entered John’s yard, “I heard Mr. John was saying, ‘Why you have to destroy my family? Why you have to destroy my family?”
He said that three to four times Franklyn said, but told the court that she did not hear anyone respond to John’s saying that.
“After that, I heard something like rumbling, like a fighting,” John told the court, saying that by that she meant she heard as if someone was fighting.
Franklyn told the court that she heard the rumbling about two to three minutes after hearing John speak.
“After the rumbling, I heard like a gun crank and a single shot fired,” Franklyn said.
She said that she heard the racking of the gun and the shot about three minutes after hearing the rumbling.
After the shot, Franklyn said, she saw three people walk back out of John’s yard.
She said that the tall guy was in front, followed by the lady then another guy. They were the same three people that she had seen going into Mr. John’s yard.
“The tall guy was the one in the front, the female was in the middle, and the third guy was behind her,” Franklyn said and demonstrated to the court the positions of the three people.
“The tall guy was walking like quickly going up. When the female was trying to catch up with the tall guy, she was walking like this and was trying to say something,” Franklyn told the court, as she demonstrated.
“The third guy — person— was a distance from them going up.”
At this point — 3:58 p.m., Counsel Duane Daniel, who is representing Morgan, asked that the witness be excused.
The lawyer sought the clarification of the court regarding the order in which Franklyn had said that the trio had exited John’s yard.
When this was clarified, the court proceeded to take a convenience break and the hearing resumed at 4:24 p.m.
Franklyn continued her evidence-in-chief, telling the court, “The female was like three feet away from the tall guy. The third guy was about six feet away from the female.”
Asked how far away from her porch, from where she was watching, that the three people had passed, Franklyn said, “About one foot away because I live close to the road.”
She said that she recognised the female at that time and it was Morgan.
Franklyn said that after observing the trio going up, “I heard Mr. John was making noise still. He was saying that they shot him in his foot. I called my boyfriend using my cellphone. I was still in my porch.”
She told the court that at the time of the phone call she did not see the three people, having made the call after they went past her home.
After the call, Franklyn went down to John’s house. She shone her phone light when she reached John to see where John was shot.
The witness told the court that she would not have been able to see where John was shot if she had not shone the light.
Franklyn said that she met John sitting on the ground on his bottom, facing the road.
She was able to see his feet, which were straight out, Franklyn said, using her arms to demonstrate John’s outstretched feet.
They were in front of him.
“I went to get some cloth to band his foot because blood was spurting out,” Franklyn told the court.
“He stated that Ashelle Morgan bring her hitman them to shoot him,” Franklyn said.
John did not tell her anything else about the “hitmen”.
“I was called by an officer and two constables, the names I can’t remember,” Franklyn continued.
The prosecutor asked Franklyn if she was still on the phone when she initially got to John’s house.
Franklyn said she gave the phone to John to speak to Sergeant 6, the same person she was speaking to when she got to John’s house.
She said she went to a neighbour’s house to get some cloth to bind John’s foot and use the cloth to apply pressure in an effort to stop the bleeding.
“Afterwards, Sergeant Prescott called me. He identified himself to me. Then I went to him and told him what happened. After that, I took him to Mr. John where he was sitting and he (John) told him (Prescott) that Ashelle brought her hitmen to shoot him”
Prescott spoke to John then Mr. John spoke to Franklyn and as a result she went into Mr. John’s room inside of the house. Because of the hearsay rule, Franklyn was not allowed to tell the court about the conversation between John and Prescott.
The witness told the court that she entered John’s house by opening the door next to where he was sitting near the front of the house.
“After entering the room, I took some clothes off the line. While coming back out, I butt up on the spent shell on the steps where Cornelius John was sitting.
“After seeing the spent shell, I called out to Sergeant Prescott and told him, ‘Here is the spent shell.’ One of the constables who was with Sergeant Prescott marked a circle around the spent shell, took photos and then took it up.”
The constable took the photos with his cellphone.
“After that, myself and Sergeant Prescott lifted Cornelius John and place him in a vehicle. It was a private vehicle.”
After John was placed on the vehicle, Prescott drove off, Franklyn said.
Franklyn told the court that between the time when she arrived at John’s house and when Prescott drove off with John, John’s daughter came to the house.
“His daughter appeared on the scene. In the presence of myself, Sergeant Prescott, the two constables and the neighbour that came out, she said, ‘You will get more where that come from.’” John’s daughter had come from the house where they (she and her mother) were living.
Franklyn said that she left for John’s house about two minutes after she heard the shot.
Asked how long it took her to get from her home to John’s premises, Franklyn said:
“It didn’t take me long, because of fright.”
She said that while it was night, she was able to see John’s premises because there is a streetlight nearby. The streetlight is located between John’s house and the house in which his wife, Nicole John, was living at the time.
The witness told the court that the “tall guy” that she mentioned is taller than “the third guy”.
She said she could not say how much time had elapsed between the time when the tall guy first spoke to her and when she saw them going back up the road.
The prosecutor made an application for Franklyn to be shown the photos that Police Constable 933, Elroy Quammie, a crime scene investigator who was the first witness to testify, had taken at the scene almost eight weeks after the shooting.
Franklyn viewed the photos and pointed out to the court the locations that she spoke about in her evidence.
She told the court that she had to open the door to get into John’s house.
Shown a photo of John sitting on the ground, Franklyn said, “He wasn’t sitting in that direction.”
Witness saw no cutlass
The witness told the court that when she first got to John’s house she did not see him a cutlass in his hand, did not see a cutlass around John, nor did he have anything in his hand.
Franklyn completed her evidence-in-chief at 5:18 p.m.
Daniel began his cross examination one minute later by telling Franklyn:
“You can’t assist us with what actually transpired in the yard with the three persons and Mr. John. Can you?”
Franklyn said no and the prosecutor rose and said he would prefer that Franklyn wait outside while the court entertained his point.
“The witness has already answered,” Daniel protested.
Franklyn was excused from the court at 5:20 p.m.
Brette then said that Daniel’s question was unfair to Franklyn.
He said that the witness may not have had a visual of what unfolded in the yard, “but the witness said she heard”. He said it would be unfair to tell the court that she cannot assist the court with what happened in the yard.
But Daniel asked if this cannot be cleared up in re-examination
Counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste who holds a watching brief in the matter and is representing John on a charge that on April 13, at Diamond, he threatened Morgan, said during the cross talk that Franklyn had said what she heard.
Daniel repeated the question to the court and the magistrate said he had no difficulty with it.
Lawyer Ronald Marks, who is representing Morgan, told the court that at the end of the day, the magistrate has to decide what to believe.
The witness was recalled at 5:23 p.m.
Daniel told the court that he was trying to save time, by eliminating some of the other questions he had intended to ask.
“Now, you are certain that it was you that found the spent shell?” Daniel said.
Franklyn said yes, adding that it was not one of the officers.
At 5:24 p.m., the lawyer told the court he had no further questions for the witness, and Marks began his cross examination.
Noting the photos viewed earlier, Marks asked Franklyn how far is her house from John’s house.
Franklyn said 100 feet, but when asked to point out the distance, pointed out a distance that the court concluded was about 100 yards (300 feet)
Franklyn said she was able to hear John’s voice clearly but she was not hearing the other people’s voices.
“And even when you saw the tall guy and Morgan you said Morgan was saying something but you couldn’t hear?” Marks asked.
Franklyn said she could not hear and that she could not say how far Morgan was from her when Morgan spoke.“She was saying something but I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying. She was already passed my gate and was beyond so I couldn’t hear what she was saying.” Franklyn told the court, adding that Morgan was closer to her (Franklyn’s) house than to John’s at that point.
‘we had to brace him up; then he hopped on one foot’
At 5:28 p.m. Daniel asked the court for a minute and he and Marks went to the side of the courtroom in a huddle.
The defence counsel returned to the bar a minute later.
“When the police officers came, you said you went into the house?” Marks asked Franklyn.
“Cornelius John sent me into the room to get some clothes off the line so that Prescott’s jeep wouldn’t get bloody.”
Franklyn said that none of the police officers went into the house with her and they were outside.
“And when I came out I saw the spent shell and I turned to Sergeant Prescott and showed him the spent shell,” Franklyn said.
She said she just went into John’s house to get the clothes and came back outside.
Marks reconfirmed with Franklyn the sequence of events in her testimony: “You heard the shot, saw the three persons leave, heard Mr. John saying they shot him. After you heard them, you called your boyfriend, spoke to him, explained generally what happened, he advised you to go to assist John and you walked the distance to John’s house. When he got there he was sitting facing the road with his legs outstretched.”
Franklyn said that the next person to come on the scene was their neighbour, Monique Lewis, also called Miss Nash. She was followed by Jamilla George, another neighbour, to whose house she had initially gone to get the cloth to apply pressure to John’s leg.
A boy named Gustine, whose surname she doesn’t know, also came out, Franklyn said, adding that people came out to John’s house and were assisting him.
Franklyn said that the streetlight “tell” in the area. “They put in a bright one,” she said of the street light between John and his wife’s homes.
She said that she did not go back into John’s house any time after she had gone in to get the clothes.
Franklyn said that John sent her to get the clothes and she used her phone light because no light was on at the time. She said that when she exited the house she saw the spent shell.
She said that the civilians came and then the police and that Sergeant Prescott spoke with her.
Franklyn said that she and Prescott put John in the back of the vehicle.
She said that she would not say that the police remained on the scene long. They came, spoke to John, took photos, assisted him in the back of the vehicle and then left.
That was the end of Marks’ cross examination and at 5:37 p.m. Brette began to re-examine the witness.
He confirmed that it was Franklyn and Prescott who had put John in the vehicle
“Do you know why you had to pick him up?” Brette asked.
“We picked him up because he said he wasn’t feeling his foot so we had to brace him up, then he hopped on one foot.”
The trail was adjourned at 5:39 p.m. to resume at 9 a.m. Friday.