Olivier Clarke (left) walking out of court in handcuffs on Tuesday afternoon after his appeal trial.
PHILIPSBURG--Olivier M. Clarke (43) is facing eighteen years in prison on appeal for shooting and killing Oswald Meyers in Dawn Beach around 9:30pm May 8, 2021. The confrontation that led to Meyers’ fatal wound revolved around the woman with whom both men were cheating on their wives.
That night, police found Meyers in his dark grey Toyota Hilux gasping for air and bleeding heavily from a gunshot to his left abdomen. He died several hours later at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC).
Police stopped Clarke’s white Hyundai H-100 truck about 15 minutes after the shooting and placed him in handcuffs.
In June 2022, the Court of First Instance found Clarke guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to 11 years in prison. Both Clarke and the Prosecutor’s Office appealed the lower court’s verdict.
While Clarke maintained during Tuesday’s appeal trial that he had acted in self-defence, the Solicitor-General believed he had killed Meyers in cold blood. Considering murder proven, the Solicitor-General asked the panel of three appellate judges to sentence Clarke to 18 years in prison.
The higher court will render a verdict on December 18.
Threats, stones and shots
The woman had filed a police complaint against Meyers about three weeks before the shooting, alleging that he had assaulted Clarke with rocks when he found them at her home.
“I have bullets with your names on it,” Meyers supposedly said to the pair at this time.
About a week later, Clarke himself gave a statement to police about the threats. He followed this up two days later by sending WhatsApp screenshots to authorities, in which Meyers was sending messages and then deleting them. Clarke claimed that the content of the messages were also threatening.
As he did in his lower court trial last June, Clarke said that Meyers was the aggressor on the night of the shooting.
Clarke told the court that he had arrived at the woman’s house around 5:30pm that day to install a computer desk. When he was leaving four hours later, he said he was suddenly blocked in by Meyers’ truck.
Clarke said Meyers had gotten out and had begun to throw stones at his vehicle. This is when the business owner grabbed the gun he had been carrying as protection against armed robbers and fired about three shots.
Describing Meyers as a friend and business associate, Clarke said it had never been his intention to end the other man’s life. Instead, he claimed to only have shot at the vehicle to scare away his attacker.
Clarke drove away from the scene at this point, but surveillance camera footage captured him making a U-turn and heading back towards the woman’s house.
Clarke said he had feared for the woman’s safety, as Meyers had driven toward her home.
When he turned back onto the woman’s street, Clarke claimed that Meyers was now heading
straight toward him. The vehicles then crashed into each other, he said.
A video from a nearby surveillance camera was shown during Tuesday’s appeal trial. The sound of the crash could be heard distinctly, followed by the crack of a gunshot.
The video then depicts Meyers’ vehicle fleeing the scene, followed closely behind by Clarke’s white truck. Another gunshot rings out after the vehicles leave the camera’s view.
Suddenly, the vehicles come back into view, this time going in the opposite direction. Clarke is still trailing Meyers. Another gunshot can be heard in this portion of the video, making a total of six.
Several moments later, the surveillance camera by the gated community’s security boom captures Meyers’ vehicle coming to a stop. Clarke drives behind and parks close by.
Clarke then walks over to Meyers’ vehicle, opens the driver’s door and rummages around for awhile. Clarke told the court that he had been looking for Meyers’ gun, which he thought he saw when their trucks crashed into each other.
Finding no gun, Clarke picks up what appeared to be large stones and smashes the windshield and Meyers’ front door windows. He follows this up by getting into his truck and driving away.
“I had no other choice but to defend myself in whatever way possible,” Clarke told the court on Tuesday.
Police impounded Meyers’ vehicle for investigation and found five bullet holes. Four were on the passenger side while a solitary shot entered through the driver’s side door.
In cold blood
The Solicitor-General did not believe that Clarke had acted in self-defence. Instead, he considered murder proven and argued that the defendant had killed Meyers in cold blood.
The Solicitor-General questioned whether Meyers’ assault on Clarke three weeks before the shooting had ever really happened. He pointed to WhatsApp exchanges between Clarke and the woman around that time, which he said never mentioned a fight or rocks being used as weapons. Their statements to police also did not agree on the date on which the alleged fight had taken place.
He also argued that Clarke’s supposed fear of Meyers cannot be seen in the case file’s evidence, citing WhatsApp messages to show that the defendant had, in fact, been defiant and aggressive.
In one message to the woman, Clarke said about Meyers: “He going to make me do what I don’t want to do.”
In a set of messages to Meyers himself, Clarke said: “I’ll be there tonight and all the time. Maybe you should ask her who her man is?”
Based on Clarke’s and Meyers’ tumultuous history, the Solicitor-General sketched a theory that the defendant had carried a gun to the woman’s home that night knowing that there was a chance he would see Meyers.
According to the Solicitor-General, Clarke had left the scene and returned to attack Meyers, not to ensure the woman’s safety. In the moments between leaving and turning around, Clarke had enough time to think about the consequences of his actions, the Solicitor-General argued, meaning that all of the subsequent gunshots can be classified as pre-meditated.
He also tried to poke holes in Clarke’s state of mind during the incident, arguing that he was not “hysterical” when he slowly walked up to Meyers’ vehicle and opened the driver’s door. If the defendant had thought Meyers really had a gun, the Solicitor-General said, he would have never have approached the vehicle in that way.
Clarke’s lawyer Sjamira Roseburg pleaded for her client’s acquittal for murder, arguing that he
had never had a moment for calm deliberation. Describing it as “non-stop action,” she pointed out that the entire incident had taken only three minutes from start to finish.
As for manslaughter, she emphasised that her client had acted in self-defence.
Roseburg countered the Solicitor-General’s argument that Clarke had never been assaulted by Meyers. To support this, she cited a WhatsApp message that Clarke had sent to Meyers, which said, “You hit me once.”
In her 1½ hour pleading, Roseburg sketched a detailed theory that painted Meyers as the aggressor. After all, it was Meyers who came to the woman’s home unannounced and uninvited, she argued.
Roseburg argued that the damage to her client’s truck proved that he had been attacked first and that Meyers had later hit him head-on. She also pointed out that Meyers had been much bigger than her client.
Clarke panicked after the head-on collision, Roseburg said. It was after this crash that Clarke had seen “something shiny” through Meyers’ windshield and thought it was a firearm, she argued.
Drawing a different interpretation of the WhatsApp conversations than the Solicitor-General’s, Roseburg argued that they show that Clarke had been the one trying to de-escalate the tension between him and Meyers.
She cited many instances where Clarke had called Meyers “bro” or “friend”.
“You the one with the problem. I don’t have a problem with no one, bro,” Clarke told Meyers in one message. Clarke said in another, “Big up yourself, dread, and move like a man. Friends don’t fight for woman.”
Meyers also had deleted the messages in which he threatened to take Clarke’s life, according to the defence lawyer.
In Roseburg’s opinion, the previous threats, the sudden attack that night, and seeing a shiny object in Meyers’ vehicle meant that Clarke had entered a self-defence situation and had had no other option but to act the way he did.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s appeal trial, Clarke offered his “deepest and sincere” condolences to Meyers’ loved ones.
“Not accepted,” one of Meyers’ relatives called out from the public tribune before Clarke had even finished speaking.