Following a guilty verdict handed down by a five-man, four-woman jury, the Prosecution has given notice to the court that it will be seeking the death penalty for Rodman Moses Lewis.
Lewis, who pleaded not guilty to the crime, was today convicted of the 3 November, 2015, murder of his ex-girlfriend and child’s mother, Tricia Riviere, 26.
Throughout the 6 and a half week trial, the prosecution called over 20 witnesses to the stand to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lewis had murdered Riviere.
In her closing argument to the court on November 18, 2020, State Attorney Sherma Dalrymple, who led the prosecution’s case, asked the jury to consider the three C’s of their case, “credible and consistent witnesses and compelling evidence.”
She argued that the day in question, Lewis had an intention to kill Riviere and he acted on that.
Dalrymple urged the jury to take into account the evidence of their key witness, Arlana Jno. Baptiste Mitchel, who stated, the day in question, she saw Lewis stomping on the head of the deceased several times even after she attempted to stop him, and his several confessions to other witnesses thereafter.
However, Defense Attorney, Anthony Commodore, in his closing argument, told the jury that his client had no intention to commit murder and the prosecution did not prove throughout the trial that Rodman caused the death of Riviere.
According to Commodore, the prosecution’s case was “extremely” flawed and he appealed to the jury to take into consideration the fact that the prosecution did not present a murder weapon to the court.
During the trial, Investigating Officer, Sergeant Chaucer James, said he initialled the cylinder but could not show the said initial to the court. As such the prosecution did not tender the cylinder into evidence.
Commodore insisted that Lewis was innocent and asked, “Look at the head in the picture and tell me if someone’s head was crushed with a cylinder, would it look like that?”
He went on to state that none of the state witnesses who entered the home after the incident had occurred did anything to assist the deceased while she was still alive.
“Sylvester Jno. Baptiste said when he entered the kitchen Tricia was gasping for air. Arlana said when that happened she never called the Police or ambulance but went and sat at the neighbour’s home waiting for the police to come…also the trained nurse Perseus Thomas told us when he saw the body he ran out. Nobody tried to help her,” Commodore . Where is the humanity?”, Commodore
Speaking on Lewis’s confessions to several witnesses, Commodore stated, “do not think because someone said they killed someone that is true. And don’t think because someone died someone has to pay for it,” urging the jury to set his client free.
Whilst addressing the jury today, presiding Judge Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts advised that they could return one of three options; murder, manslaughter or not guilty, based on the evidence they accept or deny from the prosecution’s case.
The jury had a minimum of 2 hours to deliberate and could only return before such time with a unanimous guilty verdict of murder. If a decision was not made after the two hours, she stated she would provide further directives on their way forward.
However, after 1 hour and 15 minutes, the decision was clear as the jury returned with its guilty verdict, following which, Dalyrample put their notice to the court for the death penalty in this matter.
Speaking to the press after the verdict, the prosecution listed some of the grounds on which their decision was taken.
“We believe that the circumstances of this murder are extremely brutal and it fits into the category of the worse of the worse which is what the learning says in that area and also this penalty is still available in Dominica, it is still on the law books and the accuse we think is not likely to be reformed,” Dalyrample informed.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Evelina Baptiste, also added, “I would like to say to the public that we are not looking for any particular kind of sentence. We remain as ethical to our prosecutorial ethics and we are ministers of justice but we think it is a case in which some message should be sent out to the public to deter them from these types of acts.”
Dalrymple applauded the investigation by Sergeant Chaucer James which she stated contributed to their success as it was very “prudent and thorough.”
“The prosecution proved its case and justice has been served. The evidence and the investigation was well put together by Sergeant Chaucer James,” Dalrymple siad, adding, “ the DPP’s office put a lot of work into this matter, there have been sleepless nights and we are ministers of justice and we maintained being a minister of justice throughout this matter and at the end of the day it is not about winning or losing it is about the fairness of the trial and we must say that the verdict is sound and the trail was a fair trial.”.
Dalrymple also received high commendation from the DDP for her performance throughout the trial.
“The defence, I have to admit, did not really have a defence that could match up with the evidence that was presented by the prosecution… but she (Dalrymple) did a lot of work in respect to this matter. There were countless applications in this matter and there were a lot of witnesses and the matter was very drawn out which compromised some of our other matters which we had to adjourn but in the end, it worked out,” DPP Baptiste stated.
The Judge has ordered a psychiatric report for the accused as well as a social inquiry report to be presented to the Court on or before January 8, 2021, while submissions will be filed by both parties on or before January 25, 2021.
The sentencing is set for February 1, 2021.
If the prosecution’s request for the death penalty is granted, Lewis will be the first person sentenced to death in Dominica since Frederick Newton, who was the Commander of the Dominica Defence Force (DDF) was executed in 1986 for organising an attempted coup d’état in 1981 that resulted in the death of a police officer.
In January 1983, Newton and five of his soldiers were given death sentences by a Dominica court for organising and participating in the failed 1981 coup aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Eugenia Charles. The sentences of the five soldiers were eventually commuted to life imprisonment, but in 1986, Newton became the only person to be executed by Dominica since its independence from the United Kingdom, when he was hanged in Roseau.