Two people accused of murdering Chad McAllister Bush in broad daylight last 14 February have had the charge against them dropped.
In Grand Court yesterday afternoon, Senior Crown Counsel Adam Roberts advised that Attorney General Sam Bulgin was no longer proceeding against Royden Isaac Robinson, 26, and Sven Brett Connor, 24.
The case received much publicity for two reasons: the death of Chad Bush, 27, was the second fatal shooting in three days in an area of George Town known as Central, and both Robinson and Connor are prisoners who were on a work release programme 14 February (Caymanian Compass, 1 March).
Mr. Roberts advised the court that Mr. Bulgin felt an explanation was needed for entering a formal declaration that the Crown is not continuing the prosecution.
Mr. Justice Alex Henderson gave permission.
Mr. Roberts then detailed the background to the charge, which was laid in February on the basis of evidence obtained from several witnesses.
‘The nature of the evidence gathered included circumstantial evidence as to the relationship between the deceased and one of the defendants and material evidence from a witness. That material evidence was as to the planning of and motive for the murder, the execution of the murder and as to certain admissions made,’ Mr. Roberts said.
On 9 September, however, one of the defence attorneys involved sent a fax to the Legal Department. It was a statement dated 2 August and signed by the material witness before a justice of the peace.
‘In this statement the witness indicated that the material information previously given to the police was untrue. According to the witness, the story was made up against the men because she was upset with one of them, who was her boyfriend at the time. The witness also indicated a refusal to testify in court or to amend this new statement,’ Mr. Roberts said.
He noted that 9 September was the date of advisories to prepare for Hurricane Ivan, so the fax was filed and the file put into storage.
After the hurricane and the Legal Department’s move from the Tower Building to new quarters, the matter resumed. In November the witness gave another statement saying that her August statement was true and correct.
The Crown took the view that, because of the seriousness of the situation, further inquiries had to be conducted to determine ‘whether the witness had been influenced, threatened or forced in any way’ to make the retraction statement.
On 20 December, ‘after discussions with the Commissioner of Police and the Legal Department, the witness was contacted by police. She provided a further statement stating that the retraction statement had been given of free will and without force, threats or influence,’ Mr. Roberts said.
‘In the absence of the evidence from this material witness, there would be insufficient evidence to establish a case to the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt against these two defendants,’ he summarised. ‘The Crown is therefore forced to discontinue the case by entering a nolle prosequi (the formal declaration). The case simply cannot proceed without this witness.’
Mr. Roberts told the court that, because of the seriousness of the matter, the witness will face criminal prosecutions for providing false information to police.
Robinson was represented by Attorney Laurance Aiolfi; Connor by Attorney James Austin-Smith.
Mr. Justice Henderson told the defendants that the charge had been dropped and they were free to go. But it was not immediately clear what their status is.
When they were first brought to court on this charge, the Crown Counsel at the time explained that Robinson had been sentenced in 2000 to 14 years for attempted murder. Connor was sentenced in 1999 to 15 years for manslaughter.
A separate Compass story, based on an interview with the Director of Prisons, explained that an inmate becomes eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence and can be considered for work release one year before parole consideration comes up.
The fatal shooting of Chad Bush occurred shortly after 3pm on 14 February, less than 48 hours after the fatal shooting of Joseph Alexander Williams. When the matters first came to court, it was alleged that the second killing was to avenge the first.
The two defendants charged with Joseph Williams’ murder went to trial last month. Damean Dwayne Seymour and Matio Romario Dinall had the charge against them dismissed after the judge found there was no case for them to answer (Compass, 13, 20 December).