Defendant claims set-up

Defendant Sheldon Brown went into the witness box on Wednesday and told the court he believed there was a set-up against him.

Brown is on trial for the attempted murder of James Fernando Martin on 17 August 2004. Martin was shot several times at the Cayman Islander Hotel where he was staying under a witness protection plan.

Mr. Justice Dale Sanderson has indicated to jurors that he will complete his summing up to them on Monday morning and then send them into deliberations.

The first witness for the Defence was an expert on gunshot residue. After Brown gave evidence, there were three other witnesses, including his wife. Mrs. Brown told the court that Sheldon had not been out the night of the shooting. She also answered questions about what happened during the arrest and search.

Brown began his evidence by admitting his previous convictions. Questioned by his counsel, Paul Purnell QC, he acknowledged offences including firearms, conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of cocaine with intent to supply.

He said when he was in prison the last time he had decided to make a change in his life. When he came out in July 2003, he held two meetings in George Town with youths about their lives.

(Mrs. Beulah McField-Burton, of the Rehoboth Youth Ministry and the Arthur Martin Youth Centre told the jury she had attended a meeting at which Brown was the main speaker. The theme was reconciliation and stopping violence and foolishness.

She said she was impressed and did see a difference afterwards, although it was short-lived.)

The defendant was asked about his home and the fact there were steel plates on the windows and a grill on the door. He said they had been installed in February 2004 after his apartment was shot at in late January or early February.

In March 2004 he was arrested for threatening to kill Fernando Martin and was kept in custody until he was acquitted on 3 August 2004.

He said he knew Fernando, but they did not socialise. He was surprised when Martin accused him of threatening, but he believed somebody had put him up to it.

Brown said he knew Fernando had given police statements against two people accused of murder because that had to do with his own case.

On the night of 17 August 2004 he was home with his wife. The police came around 10 or quarter to 1 and he was arrested for attempted murder. He said he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back by one of the armed officers of the Uniform Support Group. The jury previously heard that Brown was handcuffed in front, by the head of the search and arrest team (Caymanian Compass, 26 January).

Brown said more officers came into his house than the police had said in their evidence. He named one of the officers as someone he had trouble with before, setting out a sequence of events.

His house had been shot up at the end of January 2004. Two weeks later Joe Williams, who he considered a friend, was murdered and two days after that Chadwick Bush was murdered.

Brown told the court he had been speaking to the officer about his house being shot at and Joe being shot. The inference he drew from the officer’s comment was like ‘You next.’

Prior to the shooting of Fernando, he heard the same officer say something to a third party over a phone. He didn’t trust the situation.

On the night of his arrest for the attempted murder, Brown said, ‘they’ found a blue T-shirt in the laundry hamper and a white T-shirt hanging over the side. He had worn the blue shirt two or three days before.

The defendant said he had never seen the socks police said they found in the hamper. Further, he stated that the hamper was nearly full of clothes, not just the two shirts and socks the police brought to court.

He said the officer did not wear gloves and did not bag anything and nothing was sealed in his house. He said one officer passed the T-shirt to an officer he named and that officer passed it to someone else. The jury heard previously that an officer wore gloves and put items in evidence bags and sealed them in the house.

After the search, Brown was taken to the George Town Police Station in a vehicle with armed officers. After some time he had his hands swabbed for gunshot residue.

Brown said the officer taking the swabs did not wear gloves. The officer asked if he was right-handed or left-handed and later observed that Brown had signed something with his left hand. Two separate swabs were taken, he said, from between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.

Later when he was cautioned before interview, Brown told police he did not intend to answer anything except about his whereabouts because he knew he was being set up. Mr. Purnell asked if he had knowledge of a set-up against him.

The defendant said he had three reasons to think so: Fernando’s lie, which somebody put in his head; the shooting of Fernando, which took place exactly two weeks after Brown came out of prison; the officer asking which hand he wrote with. All these things together gave him a picture.

Asked finally if he had shot Fernando, Brown replied that he did not shoot him or anybody; he did not leave his yard. If you want to kill, he added, you shoot in the head.

The complainant has told the jury he was shot in the shoulders, knee and hand.

On behalf of the prosecution, Andrew Radcliffe QC asked the defendant if he is left-handed and Brown agreed, for writing and ordinary activities.

He then asked about the gunshot residue found on Brown’s left hand. The defendant pointed out that the residue came from swabs ‘they say’ came from his hand.

Mr. Radcliffe pointed out that Fernando had named Brown as the shooter and described him as wearing a dark blue shirt. When police searched Brown’s home, they found a blue shirt. Was the defendant saying police planted gunshot residue on the shirt?

Brown said somebody put it there. How it got there he did not know. His lawyer had said contamination.

Later, Mr. Radcliffe suggested that Brown had a grudge against Fernando because the man’s accusation had kept him in custody for five months.

Brown said he had no grudge. He knew at the time that Fernando was on crack. He didn’t feel happy about being in prison but he didn’t believe the accusation was of Fernando’s making. His parents did not teach him to hate.

Mr. Radcliffe asked what Brown had meant by being set up. Brown said if he didn’t do it, what other inference could there be. He said it was obvious whoever shot Fernando didn’t intend to kill him.

Brown said he was not liked by many of the police. Asked who, he said he didn’t have any proof.

Going back to the search at his house, Brown was asked what had made him cry. The Crown had suggested that he cried and vomited after hearing that he was charged with attempted murder and the man was not dead.

Brown said he cried because he was being lied on; he had just got out of jail and the police were pulling him in. He vomited afterwards because he was frustrated and his stomach was upset.

Mr. Radcliffe suggested that Brown was telling lies to get around the ‘inconvenience’ of the gunshot residue evidence. Brown said he was not lying.

Mr. Radcliffe said there was gunshot residue on Brown’s left hand and blue T-shirt because Brown went there to take revenge and shot Fernando, intending to kill him.

Brown replied that whoever went there was an amateur or it was a punishment job.

In re-examination, Mr. Purnell noted that Brown had been asked earlier if anyone else had a reason to attack Fernando. Mr. Purnell now asked if he had any direct knowledge.

‘Of who would want to harm him?’ Brown replied. ‘He has been lying on people for years.’

Jury’s questions

After the Defence closed its case and the judge indicated that closing speeches would start Friday morning, the jury foreman said members had questions.

Mr. Justice Sanderson told them to write out their questions and give them to the court marshal. He would then discuss them with the attorneys.

The jury later handed up four questions. They were discussed and the jury was brought back into court for the response.

The judge told them the answer was that both the crown and Defence had closed their case and there would be no more evidence. The jurors must base their decision on the evidence they had heard and must not speculate what other evidence might or might not reveal.

As a matter of law, he told them, the Crown is obliged to disclose to the Defence all the material evidence in its possession, whether or not the Crown intends to use it. The Crown or Defence could use what evidence it chose.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now