Dennis “Rocka” Knibbs was a black defendant facing a white jury – ten jurors were white and two were of Asian ancestry – in his murder trial in Vancouver. When this fact was mentioned early in the trial on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog, it drew a response from Lanre Aba Habib, mother of 21 yr. old Trumaine “Ekoh” Habib whom Knibbs, now 31, was accused of shooting multiple times in the New Wings Hotel. Habib wrote: “And as my son was half white, all I ask the court is that they would give his white side some form of JUSTICE”.

She got justice.

But questions linger about whether justice was stretched a little thin in places during the trial which saw Knibbs, the Montreal born son of Jamaican immigrants, convicted of second degree murder and sentenced last Thursday to 25 years in prison, with a mandatory ten years before being eligible for parole. Defense lawyer, Glen Orris, had argued in the hours before the verdict that Knibbs was being denied his right to fully defend himself.

Orris had felt ambushed when the jury was told at the last minute that they could consider whether the victim, Habib, had acted in self-defense when firing the first shot. Orris said he would have defended his client from this angle had he learned of it before the jury was heading off to deliberations.

“Who goes into a hotel they were just banned from toting a SHOTGUN?!!…he intended to what? Use it as a coat hanger?”

Even laypersons discussing this murder case instinctively gravitate toward the issue of whether Habib was defending himself or provoking Knibbs when he fired that first shot. Early in the case, Habib’s mother wrote to the Enquirer,

“…all I want to say is that my son was defendeding (sic) himself from two thugs that had nothing but bad blood towards him and he defended himself as he knew how to…”

After the verdict, a Knibbs supporter who wished to remain anonymous, argued that Habib’s conduct was more provocation than self defense:

“Who goes into a hotel they were just banned from toting a SHOTGUN?!! … Its obvious why this guy went back with a deadly weapon.. to use deadly force. I’m sure if he took it, he intended to what? use it as a coat hanger?

[…]

Judge Silverman instructs the jury: first he said they could, then he said they couldn’t, then he said they could

After the verdict, a supporter of Knibbs commenting on the Downtown Eastside Enquire blog, accused the jury of letting race influence their decision.

“Let me ask the jury this , ‘How could you say that Ecko (sic) acted on self defense if he was barred from the New Wings . Means he isnt allowed in . How do you know defendent (sic) wasn’t tryin to escort him out of there’. . . . You have it out for black people and I really think that it’s a nasty attitude.”

But if the jury’s decision was colored by anything, it may have been Justice Silverman’s instructions about whether they could consider if Habib had acted in self-defense when firing the first shot. First he said they could, then he said they couldn’t, then he said they could.

To read the rest of this original article, go to Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog, which covered the trial live.

Be Sociable, Share!