By John Denny Observer Reporter
(Charlestown, Nevis) ” Another chapter in the Eric Weekes murder saga came to a close this week when a jury in the Nevis High Court handed down a not guilty verdict in favor of Dawn Challenger. Mrs. Challenger had been charged for attempting to influence a juror during the murder trial. Her son, Kishmoy Challenger, was one of five defendants charged and ultimately convicted of the Mar.5, 2004 murder of Eric Weekes, 16, during the Inter-Primary Sports Day in Charlestown. Kishmoy Challenger and three others convicted in the case recently had their convictions overturned on appeal and have been released from prison. Mrs. Challenger’s husband, Irvin Challenger, was acquitted of the attempting to influence a juror during last November’s assize The alleged incidents of attempted influence by the husband and wife happened the same day. Monday Online Code for Issue # 732 is PUZ On Nov. 22, 2005, during a recess in the Weekes trial, Irvin Challenger approached Cresentia O”Flaherty, a juror, in Memorial Square outside the courthouse and said “You know the number two accused is my son?” The court found that stand alone statement was insufficient to convict. On the evening of Nov. 22, 2005, Lorna Stapleton, wife of juror Jasper Stapleton received a phone call, and the caller ID said “D Challenger,” according to Mrs. Stapleton’s testimony. In the phone conversation Dawn told Lorna that she would like her husband, Jasper, ‘to let her son come home.” Mrs. Challenger also made references to children the two families have that go to the same school, according to testimony. Mrs. Challenger was represented by Anthony Johnson. The prosecution was represented by the Director of Public Prosecution, Pauline Hendrickson. Justice Francis Bell presided. The two incidents ultimately led to the dismissal of the jury in the murder trial and the case was traversed for a year. Dawn Challenger’s case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. The one piece of direct evidence, phone records from Cable & Wireless proving the call was made, was suppressed because the prosecution failed to produce the court order to seize the record. The defense then went after the letter of the law, questioning the defining points and stating that it did not apply in this case. Defense submitted that the Jury had to be corruptly influenced and the prosecution had failed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was any corrupt influence:” “What is the prosecution required to prove? What are the elements of the case? There was no influence by money, threats, letter or persuasions,” Johnson said.” It is clear that the question of attempting to influence has to be done by some form.” The prosecution answered that the intention of influence was clear and that Dawn was using connections inherent in a small community to sway the jury’s decision. During the two-day trial Justice Bell reminded the jury that although there was no violence or property involved, it was a “very important case” because Nevis and the pool of prospective jurors is so small, that it could take very little to influence the process of justice.