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Two men walk from Murder Charge Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 February 2018 00:00

Two men, who were accused of a ruthless murder, are free of the charge after a trial by jury. They are 21-year-old Damian Donovan Velasquez of Roaring Creek, and 20-year-old Justin Giovanni Banner, of Camalote. At the time of the killing, both persons were only 18 years old and were accused of killing 16-year-old Ivan Choc during a Camalote home invasion, in the presence of a two-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.

Two years after that murder, at their last arraignment on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, the accused murderers got news of their acquittal when they appeared before Justice  Antoinette Moore. The two men had been on remand for two years, three months, and six days. Their acquittal came after a no case submission was made by their attorneys, Oscar Selgado, (who represented Banner) and Leeroy Banner (who represented Velasquez).

During the trial, the prosecution, represented by Senior Crown Counsel Cecil Ramirez, called six witnesses to the stand. The main witnesses were Eluterio Choc and Justina Choc, the parents of the deceased. Justice Moore admitted that while the Crown was successful in proving some elements of the murder, the Crown failed in proving that Velasquez and Banner were responsible.

In Eluterio Choc’s testimony, he said that he was at home on November 13, 2015 having dinner with his family when two gunmen invaded their home. The men pointed weapons at his son and shot him twice, once to the hand and again in the head. They left and attempted to regain entry into the house but he locked the door and managed to keep them out until the police arrived 20 minutes later. In his description, Choc told the police that the men that invaded his house wore masks. Again in trial, Choc admitted that while he had initially given names of the gunmen, he did not see their faces because their faces were covered. As a result of recanting his 2015 statement, he was treated as a hostile witness.

The trial against Velasquez and Banner began on Wednesday, February 14, 2018. On Friday, February 16, 2018, Justice Moore reserved her ruling for Monday, February 19, 2018. On that day, both men were told they had no case to answer to and were free to go home.