No fingerprints or DNA found on gun
Todd Omar Bowen, 23, was sentenced earlier this month to the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment after a jury found him guilty of possessing an unlicensed firearm.
No fingerprint or DNA was found on the gun, but police officers gave eyewitness accounts. Crown Counsel Nichole Petit called two experts to explain why physical evidence might not be found.
In passing sentence on 5 October, Justice Alexander Henderson said for the record that if he had discretion, he would have imposed less than 10 years. He did not wish to minimise the seriousness of the offence and emphasised he would have imposed a prison sentence.
The judge did not cite the specific sentence he would have handed down, but he did list the factors he would have considered.
The firearm was a .25 Auto CDM pistol. The judge said it was in poor condition. An expert who examined it said was in inoperable condition due to a broken bent sear spring. When the spring was manually manipulated into place, the gun was capable of expelling a projectile.
Further, the judge said, the 25-calibre gun did not strike him as the sort that would ordinarily be associated with crimes such as armed robberies.
He also would have taken Bowen’s age into account. But, for the record, he noted that Bowen did have previous convictions for burglary, handling stolen property and possession and consumption of ganja.
Defence Attorney Clyde Allen asked if sentencing could be postponed and if the court would not want a social inquiry report first.
Judge Henderson said no, but the Court of Appeal might be assisted by one, if Mr. Bowen appealed.
The maximum sentence for firearms offences has been 20 years since the 1990s. In October 2005 the Legislative Assembly amended the law to include the mandatory minimum for offences such as possession of a firearm.
Last month another amendment was proposed that would affect how the mandatory minimum is applied, but it has not been passed into law yet.
Bowen was accused of having the gun on the night of 13-14 November 2006 at the Bodden Town Pirates Week function.
The first officer said he was on duty with another officer and observed Bowen and his brother constantly looking in his direction. He thought it was suspicious, so he and his partner approached and had a relaxed conversation with the brothers, who then moved on to the side of the bandstand.
The officer said he still wasn’t happy and approached the brothers again. This time he requested a search under the Misuse of Drugs Law. As he started to search the brother, the defendant started to walk away.
The officer said he followed and saw Bowen reach into his back pocket, take out what appeared to be a silver-coloured handgun, then throw it sidearm over a nearby wall. He said the lighting was good and he was about five metres away. He heard the metal of the gun hit a dumpster that was on the other side of the wall.
Bowen was detained and a gun was found.
The officer’s partner said she remained with Bowen’s brother and did not see a gun. However, a traffic officer on duty said he saw a man running and being chased by two officers. He ran to assist. He had a clear view of the male.
He could see a small object in the male’s hand, but could not see what it was. He did not see what was thrown, but heard a distinctive metal-metal ‘ting’ sound. He assisted with the search and alerted the other officer to the gun.
Mr. Allen and Ms Petit agreed on certain facts. Swabs were taken from the magazine and trigger area of the handgun for DNA testing. A swab was also taken from Bowen. On testing the swabs from the gun, the DNA analyst did not find the DNA of Todd Bowen or of anyone else.
A police officer from the Scenes of Crime Unit checked but did not find the fingerprints of Todd Bowen or of anyone else on the gun.
Inspector Gerald Joseph was accepted as an expert on fingerprint and palm print recovery. He provided general information and did not apply it to this case.
Mr. Joseph said variables in attempting to recover finger or palm prints would include the condition of the person handling the object, such as whether he was sweating, if his skin was greasy, if he had something on his hands such as paint or blood.
Dr. Jonathan Faris, forensic DNA specialist, explained that DNA is a chemical fund in human cells. If someone touches an object, it does not always mean that person’s DNA will be on that object, he told the court.
If no DNA is detected, that could mean the method used did not detect any; or no DNA was there; or a quantity was there, but below the threshold usable. You can’t tell by looking at an object whether DNA will be there, Dr. Faris said.
The Crown then closed its case.
Bowen gave evidence. He told the court he did not have a gun and did not throw anything. He agreed there was a conversation with an officer and a request for a search. He said he cooperated. The officer asked him ‘Where is the gun?’ and he replied, ‘What gun?’
He said the officer handed him over to another officer and went to the dumpster. Then he saw the officer with a gun. He was then told he was under arrest.
In her closing speech, Ms Petit said the expert evidence about no prints or DNA put the case back where it started – what the officers saw.
Mr. Allen asked the jury to look at the inconsistencies in the evidence of the Crown witnesses: Bowen was walking or running; one officer was behind him or two; where the object was thrown; where it was recovered.