In Grand Court on Wednesday, the jury was instructed to return a verdict of not guilty in the case of Dominique C. Pearson, charged with causing grievous bodily harm.
Pearson, now 22, was charged after an incident that occurred on the night of 2 August 2003 in a restaurant parking lot. As a result of injuries received in that incident the complainant, now 24, had his left arm amputated.
Mr. Justice Seymour Panton said he did not see how Pearson could be faulted for defending himself. ‘But it pains me to know that young men are going around with machetes and knives. There should be no need for this,’ he told the defendant.
In his address to the jurors, the judge said that, in their absence, he had heard submissions from Defence Attorney Keva Reid and Crown Counsel Toyin Salako. Having considered those submissions and the evidence, he was calling on the jury to return the formal verdict of not guilty.
The law does not require him to give his reasons, the judge pointed out. However, it was his practice to do so. Such an explanation results in people being informed and not having to speculate, he said. This was especially important in small communities.
The accused person has no duty to prove anything, the judge reminded the jurors. The Crown had to prove that Pearson unlawfully did injury to the complainant.
A defence to the charge is self-defence. The Prosecution then has to show, beyond reasonable doubt, that he was not acting in self-defence.
After the Prosecution presents all of its evidence, and before the judge can call on the accused for his defence, it is the judge’s duty to assess that evidence to see whether it is such that a jury properly directed could convict on it.
In this case, Mr. Justice Panton said, there was absolutely no doubt in his mind. Once the proper directions given, it would have been impossible for the jury to return a verdict of guilty.
During the trial, which began on Monday, the complainant said he stopped at the restaurant to get something to eat. When he saw Pearson in the parking lot, he put in his waist the machete he had in the car.
He said he did so because of the look on Pearson’s face and because Pearson had threatened him three weeks earlier. He had not reported the threat to police.
The complainant acknowledged swiping at Pearson with the machete. The machete caught Pearson on the face and neck and he fell to the ground. The machete fell onto the hood of a nearby car. The complainant said he picked it up and turned to leave. He said Pearson came after him and stabbed him with a knife.
The judge commented that the complainant was the only person who gave this version.
An off-duty police officer had told the court that the complainant walked rapidly over to Pearson with the machete immediately after driving up and struck the accused with the machete which flew out of his hand and Pearson had a knife which he used during the scuffle that ensued.
In law, the judge explained, anyone who is attacked in circumstances in which he believes his life to be in danger, or believes he is in danger of being severely injured, may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances as he honestly believes them to be, in order to prevent or resist the attack.
Further, the law says that, if in using such force you kill or injure the attacker, you are guilty of no crime. If you are being attacked there is no duty to run away and hide.
In this case, the judge summarised, the man is in a parking lot and out jumps a person with a machete. What is the man to do? Cringe? Go under a car? He called this a clear case of self-defence, in which there was absolutely no need to call on the accused.
The judge also referred to it as a most unfortunate case because a young man has lost his arm. When young people get into disputes, their parents should step in and see if counselling can be of use, he suggested.
Cayman is too small for this violent behaviour among young people. Further, no youngster is supposed to be driving around with a machete in his car, he said.
‘It pains me to know that young men are going around with machetes and knives. There should be no need for this.’
– Mr. Justice Seymour Panton