Wounding was not self-defence, jury finds

A Grand Court jury earlier this month found Dennis Joseph guilty of wounding, but not guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Defence Attorney John Furniss argued that Joseph, a Nicaraguan construction worker on work permit, had wounded his Nicaraguan roommate in self-defence.

Crown Counsel George Keightley told the jury that reasonable self-defence means you can only do what you must to ward off an attack. If what you do becomes revenge or retaliation, it is not reasonable self-defence.

After the jury’s verdicts, Justice Priya Levers imposed a term of two years imprisonment. She also recommended deportation after the sentence is served.

A further hearing was ordered to determine how much financial compensation the injured man, Robert Hodgson, should receive.

The charges against Joseph arose from an incident that started on Friday night, 30 June 2006.

Both men went to a George Town bar, where Joseph caused offence to another person. Hodgson pushed Joseph in the chest and told him to calm down. Joseph reacted by punching Hodgson in the eye. The bar owner and patrons parted them

The next incident was in the early hours of 1 July. Joseph got back first to the room the men shared.

Hodgson admitted that when he got home he banged on the door. He said he was carrying a cold bottle of beer to keep the swelling down over his eye.

The Crown’s case was that, when Hodgson stepped into the room, Joseph said he was going to fix him up for the good or the bad. Hodgson asked if Joseph were mad.

Joseph got up from the bed where he was sitting. He had a 12-inch kitchen knife in his hand.

Hodgson had one foot in the doorway and one foot outside. As he turned away, he felt a blow. He fled from the room, but tripped in the yard. Joseph followed and slashed at him two more times.

After the incident Joseph told police that Hodgson had broken the bottle and then come into the room and attacked him.

But, Mr. Keightley pointed out in his address to the jury, the police officer who went to the yard found no broken pieces.

Joseph also agreed that the first time he used the knife was at the door. The second time Hodgson was completely outside.

Hodgson admitted throwing the bottle at Joseph, but only after he was stabbed. That was something anyone would have done, Mr. Keightley said; that was reasonable self-defence.

After being wounded, Hodgson ran out into the road where he was able to stop a passing taxi. Joseph followed and made a threat that Mr. Keightley said showed the intention to cause serious harm.

Both the taxi driver and passenger heard Joseph tell Hodgson, ‘I’m going to split you like a banana.’

Mr. Furniss in his summing up said Joseph may have been angry and made some remark, but his physical actions did not show intent to inflict injury. He went to a neighbour’s door to report what had happened before he went to the road, so he was not hell-bent on pursuing Hodgson.

When the taxi stopped a short way down the road with Hodgson in it, Joseph made no attempt to follow.

Mr. Furniss referred to the medical report which showed that Hodgson’s wounds were small and not deep. Clearly with a knife of that nature, the injuries could have been much more serious. In his interview Joseph said he had slashed at Hodgson rather than stab at him.

Before passing sentence, Mrs. Justice Levers expressed concern at what was happening in Cayman. When she started coming here in 1984, Cayman was known for its peace and for the people being well-mannered and friendly, she said.

She remembered being able to just stop and talk to anybody on the street. She wondered why Joseph as a foreigner would come here and behave the way he had, when his reason for coming was to benefit himself.

Mr. Furniss suggested a combination of drink and a macho attitude that some people bring with them.

The judge said that was the problem. Young Caymanians were going to be influenced by the people coming here.

Mr. Furniss suggested getting rid of this problem by deporting Joseph. Mr. Keightley objected that deportation is not a sentence of itself – it is in addition.

The judge then addressed Joseph directly, telling him he was in a country where people are known for their politeness and respect for law and order. ‘This court must do its best to save their country for them.’

She said she took into account his previous good character and remorse, but the offence was too serious for anything but a custodial sentence.