Two found guilty

Two young men who chose trial by judge alone have been found guilty of attempted murder.

Mr. Justice Alex Henderson delivered his judgment on Friday afternoon and remanded the defendants in custody.

Jason Dalton Smith, 18, and Asfa Ijah Webster, 19, had been charged jointly with attempted murder, possession of a handgun without a firearms licence and possession of the firearm with intent to commit an offence.

The complainant suffered a bullet wound to the neck and a superficial wound in each leg. Mr. Justice Henderson said that, but for the fortuitous circumstance that the victim had survived, this would have been a murder case.

The charges arose from an incident in West Bay on 22 October. According to the Crown’s case, Smith had determined that the complainant, 40, had been stealing from him.

The complainant had said he did not go around stealing people’s things and Smith had lost his property.

The incident took place at night after Hurricane Ivan, when there was no electricity in the area. The lighting at the scene was from a fire in the yard.

The judge said he had to be satisfied that the Crown’s most significant witness, a young person, was telling the truth and was not mistaken in his identity of the defendants.

The weapon used in the shooting was never found. The young person said the gun he saw Smith have and the gun he himself handled the night of the incident was a nail gun. Police found a nail gun in the yard of Smith’s relative.

The bullet recovered from the victim’s neck was a .22. The court was told that it is not possible to fire such a bullet from a nail gun.

The finding of the nail gun, however, supported the young person’s credibility. The judge said he was satisfied this witness was trying to tell the truth and there were no significant contradictions in his evidence.

The complaint also appeared to be trying to tell the truth, not trying to bring about convictions. He made it clear he was under the influence of cocaine at the time of events, had been using it heavily and had not slept for three or four days. There were inconsistencies in his evidence but he knew the defendants well and was in their presence for a substantial part of the evening.

After summarising all of the evidence, the judge said he was sure Smith had shot the complainant. He was satisfied that Webster was present, that Webster took a gym bag from a car and gave Smith socks to put on his hands before the shooting and that Webster intended Smith should kill the complainant.

In remanding the defendants, Mr. Justice Henderson said he was dismayed that they had been granted bail. In his view, when anyone is charged with a firearms offence, bail should be granted only in unusual or exceptional circumstances, which were not present in this case.

He also pointed out that in the UK, where there is a possibility of life imprisonment as a sentence, he would be obliged to put defence attorneys on notice before passing sentence. He then adjourned the matter until 29 July.

The prosecution was conducted by Senior Crown Counsel Adam Roberts. Attorney John Furniss appeared for Smith, Attorney Keith Collins for Webster.