Gun in room, nobody guilty

Two people charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition were found not guilty after trial in Grand Court last week.

Police found the gun, a nine-millimetre Intratec semi-automatic pistol, in a bedroom where the defendants were sleeping.

The charges against Allan Garfield Ebanks and Gail Michelle Ross arose from an incident that occurred in George Town in the early hours of 3 July 2005.

After the verdicts, Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla told Ebanks and Ross that the firearm in that room that night did not walk there by itself. Someone must have brought it there.

But the jury, by its verdicts, had found them not guilty, as it was open for them to do on the evidence adduced. It was therefore her duty to discharge them both.

Jurors heard that Ebanks and Ross were at a house owned by a third person. The home owner went to the police station around 3.45am and made a report.

The home owner did not give evidence in the trial and whatever he told police could not be used as evidence because it was said in the absence of the defendants.

However, the police officer could say what he did as a result of the report. He told the jury he went with other officers to the residence. There they found Ebanks asleep on the floor and Ross asleep in the bed. The gun was on the bed, under a cushion next to Ross.

Both were arrested and charged.

Ebanks, 27, did not give evidence during the trial. He had been interviewed in July 2005 and his interview was read to the jury. In it, he said he had no knowledge of the weapon.

He said he had been at a nearby bar. When he left, it started raining hard and he was on a bicycle, so he stopped at the house because he knew the owner. The house had no electricity.

Eventually the owner gave him some cushions and a sheet and he made himself a bed on the floor.

Asked how the gun got into the bed, he said it could have been when the homeowner got into bed with the girl.

Ross, 30, did give evidence during the trial. Questioned by her attorney, Mr. John Furniss, she acknowledged having a serious drug problem in the past, but said she was now getting help for it.

She also admitted doing things in the past that she was not proud of, but maintained that she had never been involved with guns.

Ross told the jury she had gone to the house three or four days before the incident for the purpose of doing drugs – smoking crack cocaine, marijuana and drinking rum. She said she went there with Ebanks.

On the evening before police came, she was in the living room smoking crack and drinking with the home owner. She said Ebanks came into the house with a black bag and then he and the other man went into the bedroom area.

She said saw Ebanks take the gun out of the bag. Both he and the home owner were in the room with the gun.

Later, because she had been up two or three nights without sleep, her body started to shut down. She asked if she could go on the bed and sleep and the home owner agreed.

Ross said that after the police came and found the gun, she and Ebanks were taken to the George Town lock-up.

Cross-examined by Attorney James Austin-Smith on behalf of Ebanks, she agreed that what she had just told the court was completely different from the interview she had given after speaking with her attorney.

In that interview with police she said the home owner had told her he had a tool and later showed her the gun. Mr. Austin-Smith asked if she were still under the influence of cocaine when she gave the interview; she said it was in her system

Several days later she was interviewed at Fairbanks Prison. This time she said Ebanks had brought the gun to the house.

Mr. Austin-Smith asked about the contradiction.

Ross said Ebanks had told her to say the gun belonged to the home owner. She said he approached her cell at the police station with another guy after he had left his cell to take a shower. He even gave her cocaine in her cell.

Mr. Austin-Smith asked if she was saying that two male suspects were wandering around as if in a country club, dealing drugs. He asked if Ross smoked the cocaine in her cell. She said yes.

It was during the interview at Fairbanks that she named Ebanks as the one with the gun.

She said police told her they knew her first statement was a lie and they knew the gun was for Ebanks. ‘They said tell the truth or I’ll get 20 years imprisonment.’

She said she felt scared but didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to be an informer. Then they told her if she didn’t tell the truth she’d be left with the blame. A female officer said Ross shouldn’t have to go down if it wasn’t her gun.

After detailing her account of Ebanks as the one with the gun, Ross said she did sign the interview form that she was not forced or intimidated or promised anything. But she agreed she did feel a bit intimidated.

Asked if she thought she was being offered something, Ross said yes, adding that she also realised it was time to tell the truth.

In summing up the evidence, Crown Counsel George Keightley said it was undisputed that the gun was in the room with the defendants. Possession, he pointed out, does not necessarily mean holding something in your hands. Possession can be knowledge of a thing and a degree of control or custody.

The Crown’s position was that Allan Ebanks’ account of that night was not accurate; it was an effort to distance himself from Gail Ross and the gun.

Mr. Keightley said Gail Ross may not have known that Ebanks was going to bring a gun, but she did know when he brought it and she could have done something about it. Ross had told the court she tried to leave the house, but Ebanks forced her back in. Mr. Keightley pointed out that she never said that in her interviews.

Mr. Austin-Smith said Ebanks did not give evidence because he had nothing new to say after his interview with police 15 months ago. Jurors had to decide if Ross was a truthful witness.

He said the judge would warn them about the danger of convicting somebody on the evidence of a co-accused who was trying to get herself out of trouble.

He asked jurors if they could seriously accept what she said about smoking cocaine at the police station. He described Ross as a desperate person who would say whatever it took to get out of trouble.

Mr. Furniss agreed this was a somewhat strange case. But one consistent point was that Ross went to bed first. There was no evidence she knew the gun was in the room when she went to bed. The Crown had not proved knowledge or encouragement or assistance, Mr. Furniss argued.

Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla instructed jurors on the law and summarised the evidence before sending them out to reach their verdicts.

The burden of proof is such that the Crown had to make them feel sure of the defendants’ guilt. If the evidence was insufficient or they were in doubt, it was their duty to acquit, she said. They had to consider the evidence against each defendant separately and return separate verdicts.

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