The defense attorney appointed to Sharif Matthew’s murder case said Wednesday that his client has an alibi and “intends to vigorously defend himself” in court.
Matthew was arrested on a warrant Friday and charged with shooting V.I. Army National Guard Sgt. Ian Benjamin Sr. to death at his St. Croix home on March 2.
He was arraigned Monday and appeared in court again Wednesday for a bail hearing.
Attorney Howard Phillips was appointed to represent Matthew because the Territorial Public Defender’s office is already representing his co-defendant in the case, Ta’Jhanique Cumberbatch, 22.
Cumberbatch was arrested just over a week after Benjamin was killed, and is facing several charges, including first-degree murder.
Matthew was also charged with first-degree murder and discharging or aiming a firearm, and is accused of firing the fatal shots, according to an affidavit filed by V.I. Police.
He is currently jailed with bail set at $1 million.
Phillips said Wednesday that “I will be filing a formal notice of alibi today,” and asked that Matthews be released on the same conditions as set in March, when he was charged with unauthorized possession of ammunition.
“That’s not happening,” said V.I. Superior Court Judge Darryl Donohue. “Your client now stands charged with murder in the first degree, a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.”
Phillips said Matthew’s mother is willing to post property as surety for his release, and will pay for electronic monitoring.
Those conditions, “should be able to satisfy the court’s concerns, your Honor,” Phillips said.
Donohue directed Phillips to file a motion for release detailing the value of the property and other information required for the court.