Attorney’s drug convictions quashed

Retrial ordered

The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal yesterday quashed drug possession and importation convictions against Caymanian attorney Patrick Gregory Schmid and ordered a retrial.

Court of Appeal Justice Priya Levers concluded that the convictions handed down by Magistrate Grace Donalds on 30 April 2007 were unsafe and unsatisfactory after allowing six of the prosecution’s 10 grounds of appeal

In April, Schmid was found guilty of having and importing .0085 of a gram of cocaine salt and .134 of a gram of methamphetamine. At that time, Magistrate Donalds did not imposed a prison sentence but ordered Schmid pay $700 in fines.

The charges related to an incident at Owen Roberts International Airport on the evening of 31 July, 2006.

While waiting in the customs line, Mr. Schmid was called over and searched by customs officer Duane Ebanks.

Several medicine bottles were found bearing the appellant’s name, including one that contained a crystal like substance, later found to be methamphetamine. A small plastic bag was also recovered containing a white powdery substance, later discovered to be cocaine.

Mr Schmid denied knowledge of any controlled drug, but did not deny possession. In his defence he said he was a young man that frequents the gym and exercises on a regular basis. He gave evidence in the Magistrate’s court that the substance in the pill bottle was a metabolic enhancer he used with a protein supplement when working out.

Justice Levers allowed Schmid’s appeals that there were inconsistencies in the evidence of the two customs officers, that the Magistrate placed too much inculpatory weight upon remarks attributed to Schmid at the airport and that the conviction was against the weight of evidence.

She also allowed their appeals that the magistrate misdirected herself in relying upon the defendant’s nonchalant and disinterested approach when question about the drugs at the airport, as being supportive of Schmid’s guilt.

Justice Levers further allowed their appeal that Magistrate Donalds misdirected herself about the burden on proof.

She also lamented why Magistrate Donald in her judgment needed to urge police officers to have notebooks so there was no risk that their testimony was based on fading memories.

‘It is such a universal practice in most other jurisdictions that one wonders why a Magistrate after several years on the bench is still urging the police officers to have notes so they do not give their evidence based on fading memories,’ Justice Levers wrote in her judgement.

Schmid was represented at the 3 August appeal by English QC Mr. Trevor Burke with David McGrath of Sampson and McGrath. Andre Mon Désir appeared for the Crown.

Schmid is a former chairman of the National Drug Council and Cayman Against Substance Abuse.

Schmid was deputy chairman of the Immigration Board for two years and also served on the Immigration Review Task Force, the Labour Appeals Tribunal, the Development Advisory Board, the Planning Appeals Tribunal, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and various scholarship committees.

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