On Monday, February 25th a jury of 12 stepped into the deliberating room to decide the fate of Japheth Bennett, who was only a teenager when he was accused of killing Ellis Meighan Sr., the brother of well-known cyclist, Ernest “Jawmeighan” Meighan. After almost 4 hours of deliberations, they reached a verdict of guilty of murder and their decision was unanimous.
When Bennett heard the verdict, he was in shock; he disbelieved that he could have been found guilty. Meanwhile, Justice Adolph Lucas deferred sentencing for Thursday, February 28th, 2013.
Ellis Meighan Sr., was gunned down on September 9th, 2009 at the corner of Banak Street and Central American Boulevard. He was shot once to the head and according to Dr. Mario Estradabran who testified in court, Meighan died from trauma due to a single gunshot wound to the head. He explained that the shot he received to the head had entered the back and exited the front and that it was shot from a distance ranging from 28 to 30 inches.
At the time of him being charged, the now 20-year-old Japheth Bennett, was only 17.
In court, there was no eyewitness to the murder but one main witness for the prosecution's case led police to the arrest of Bennett. That witness was identified as Marlon Middleton, who back in 2009, told the police that he heard the shots and later saw a man lying at the corner of Banak Street and Central American Boulevard. He also told police he saw Bennett, someone whom he had known for 5 months prior to the shooting, standing over Meighan’s body with a firearm in his hand.
In the trial, when Middleton took the stand, he first told the court that he was heading from the West Landivar area at around 8:40 p.m., on the night on September 9th, 2009, when he heard shots ring out in the area.
According to Middleton, he was heading to his sister’s house after playing basketball,when he saw the body of a man lying on the ground at the corner of Banak Street and Central American Boulevard. He said that he observed the body of the man for 5 minutes but he did not know who the man was and then he continued to ride on. According to Middleton, he didn’t see anything else that night.
But in the trial, the prosecutor had to make an application to treat Middleton as a hostile witness.
She was later able to get his 2009 statement admitted into evidence, despite the fact that Middleton continuously told the court that he didn’t recall ever giving police a statement in the matter.
When shown his 2009 statement with a signature on it, Middleton told the court that he never signed it and that the signature seen on the statement was not his.
In his defense, Bennett told the court from a dock statement, “I did not kill Ellis Meighan Sr., I don’t know Ellis Meighan Sr., I was not even close to Meighan at the time they accused me of the murder. I was in my usual places playing with my dog that I love the most. I didn’t have any intention of killing Meighan or doing anything like that.”
The trial of Japheth Bennett began on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 he was represented by attorney, Michael Peyrefitte in the trial.