Nicholi Rhys, 22, the man accused of the sensational murder of Andre Trapp, the reputed leader of the South Side Gangsters (SSG), was found not guilty in the second trial without jury in the Supreme Court of Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin on Friday, February 15.
In acquitting Rhys, C.J. Benjamin ruled that the prosecution’s evidence was not enough to prove that he had committed the murder.
The case was prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecution, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, whose case was based mostly on circumstantial evidence, because there was no eye witness to the murder.
On June 10, 2010, Andre Trapp was gunned down, as he walked out of the Magistrate’s Court and was heading for his vehicle, which was parked in the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) parking lot behind the court building.
When Trapp approached his vehicle, he came under fire and managed to run from out of the parking lot. But he did not run very far; he collapsed and died on Regent Street, almost in front of the entrance to the Magistrate’s Court.
In the two-week trial, Rhys’ defense attorney, Simeon Sampson, S.C.,was able to convince the Chief Justice that the prosecution’s identification evidence could not be relied upon.
Minutes after the shooting, when the police apprehended Rhys in a yard on Prince Street, he purportedly admitted to being the trigger man.
When the police asked him where the gun was, he allegedly told them that he had given the gun to Alton Roches, another man who was charged along with him for Trapp’s murder, but the case against Roches was dismissed at the preliminary inquiry because of insufficient evidence.
Because the police had their guns trained on him, the verbal confession that Rhys is said to have given to them, was never admitted into evidence during the trial.
Benjamin, after hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defense, ruled that the caution statement that the police had taken from Rhys was inadmissible as evidence, because the police had not read Rhys his rights and had not properly arrested him.
The identification of Rhys was another big setback in the prosecution’s case.
Police Constable Arnold, who works at the Magistrate’s Court, told the court that he caught a glimpse of Rhys for a few seconds, when he exited the passenger side of a pickup truck that was used in the execution of Trapp.
Another major flaw of the prosecution’s identification evidence is that the police had failed to carry out an identification parade.
In her closing arguments, Vidal relied heavily on the identification of Rhys. She told the court, “the witness (P.C. Arnold) testified that he saw the face of the accused coming out of the pickup truck. And he testified as to the length of time he saw the person.”