ST. THOMAS - Attorneys for five young men accused of first-degree murder in connection with the beating death of William Hyde are calling the serious charge against their clients unconstitutional.
Attorneys during the pre-trial conference for N'Kai Colon, Jelani Gumbs, Dionno Brooks, Khalif Francis and Jequan Joseph argued Tuesday that the charge can not justly be applied to their clients.
All of the accused were younger than 18 when accused of beating Hyde, 65, to death at Magens Bay Beach on Nov. 23.
Because their clients were minors at the time of the crime, and some of them still are, the attorneys are looking to a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2012, Miller v. Alabama.
That case held that minors should not be sentenced to life in prison without additional consideration for the minor's age and the circumstances of the crime that the minor is found guilty of committing.
The V.I. Code, however, does not allow for the V.I. Superior Court to make such considerations, according to defense attorneys.
"The government can't pursue unconstitutional charges against these minors," said attorney Namosha Boykin, who represented Gumbs in court on Tuesday.
Attorney Donnie King represented Colon; Russell Pate represented Brooks; Samuel Joseph represented Francis; and Darren John-Baptiste represented Joseph.
All five of the defense attorneys stated that they will be filing motions to consider the dismissal of the first-degree murder charge because of the sentence that goes with it.
The prosecution, represented by V.I. Assistant Attorney General Quincy McCrae, disputed the claims.
"No one's been convicted yet," McCrae said. Sentencing should not even be discussed yet, considering that the trial has not yet even begun, he said.
The attorneys also are challenging redundancies in the charges.
In addition to first-degree murder charges, the defendants are facing charges of second-degree murder; assault; use of weapons in a violent crime; kidnapping; possession of stolen property; and aiding and abetting.
All of the defendants are scheduled to be tried together April 2, 2014.
Boykin and Pate also filed motions to allow their clients, Gumbs and Brooks, to return to school because they are too young to enroll in online school and still are under house arrest.
The terms of release for all five of the defendants require them to remain under house arrest and be monitored at all times.
Joseph violated his house arrest on Friday and was remanded to the Bureau of Corrections immediately after. Joseph gave no particular reason for leaving his house, other than he had forgotten the terms of his release.
None of the defendants are allowed to leave their homes unless they have appointments for medical reasons, for legal counsel or for church.
Superior Court Judge Adam Christian denied the request for Joseph to return home immediately and instead continued his time at the Bureau of Corrections until 5 p.m. Sept. 27.
All of the young men are being tried as adults despite multiple appeals from their attorneys.
The prosecution said each of them had different roles in Hyde's death.
According to police, Hyde had worked as Colon's boss at Gourmet Gallery, and the two had intimate relations.
Colon decided he wanted to end it with Hyde on Nov. 23 and persuaded his four friends to join him in the beating of Hyde, according to court documents citing Brooks' statements to police Dec. 10.
The young men, between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the attack, called Hyde and asked him for a ride, according to court documents. They then took his vehicle and forced him to go to Magens Bay Beach and beat him until he was near death, according to court documents.
Hyde died from his injuries in a stateside hospital about three weeks later.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.