The prosecution explored the gruesome nature of Marvis Chamaro’s and Jack Diehl’s killings and their terrible toll upon loved ones, presenting extensive autopsy evidence and emotional testimony from the victims’ families before resting its case against accused murderer Neville Potter Jr. Wednesday.
Potter, 32, was arrested Feb. 13, 2009 and charged for the Feb. 8, 2009 murders of Chamaro and Diehl. His trial began in V.I. Superior Court on St. Thomas Tuesday.
“I miss him very much,” said Chamaro’s stepfather Reuben Williams, after recounting how he last saw Chamaro at 10:45 the morning he was killed, going to the hospital to identify the body.
JoAnne Sickler, Diehl’s widow, took the stand and described how she got a call from the neighbors saying her husband was shot, recounting the trip to the hospital and how the loss of her husband of 29 years has impacted her life.
“It affected me in every way,” she said. “In mind, body and soul; financially, at work, in every way.” Diehl’s four brothers were there in the courtroom, and his eldest brother Richard testified about their close family ties.
Dr. Francisco Landron, medical examiner for St. Thomas and St. John, recounted in graphic detail how each bullet entered both victims, describing their trajectories, where they entered and exited and how each victim died.
Accompanying charts showing the wounds were the actual autopsy photos of the bullet entrance and exit wounds. Chamaro was shot six times, with two shots to the face, dying of multiple gunshot wounds, he said. Diehl was shot twice and killed with a shot to the back of the head from less than two feet away, Landron said.
Potter’s defense attorney Leslie Payton asked whether Landron found anything to indicate who had done the shooting and Landron replied that no, not directly. His work only established the circumstances and details of the deaths, for use by both police and defense, he said.
After the prosecution rested, Payton moved for the judge to acquit the charges for lack of evidence. Citing the testimony of the various police witnesses, Payton said there were no fingerprints or DNA or other physical evidence directly connecting Potter to the crimes.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Potter committed murder,” Payton said. “The best they have is the statements of Kyle Gumbs and Mr. [James] John [Diehl’s neighbor].”
Contrary to Payton’s suggestion, “eyewitness testimony is powerful evidence,” said Walker in response.
“I’m not assessing their credibility,” Payton said at another point. “Their testimony does not identify Mr. Potter as the shooter,” he said.
Hollar denied Payton’s motion for acquittal, saying the two eyewitness identifications were strong evidence and it was the jury’s role to weigh the evidence and pass judgment on its merit.
When the jury returned, Payton began his defense by saying the murders were a horrendous crime and that everyone in the territory is affected by the ongoing violence in the streets, but his job was to ensure that the right person is punished.
“It comes down to who the shooter is and whether or not it was Mr. Neville Potter,” Payton said during his opening statement.
Payton questioned the police photo array from which Gumbs and John identified Potter as the perpetrator. Payton did not address how the photo array might have been tainted.
The defense continues its case Thursday morning.