Witnesses to the fatal shootings in East End last year were honestly mistaken about what they saw and heard, said Queen’s Council Howard Hamilton Friday.
Mr. Hamilton, along with Attorney Margeta Facey-Clarke, is defending Trevino Tennson Bodden, also known as TJ, who is charged with the murders of Brenard Scott and Renold Pearson on the night of 1-2 November, 2006.
Solicitor General Cheryll Richards also addressed the jury. Both summed up points they were asking the jury to consider in reaching a verdict. Justice Alexander Henderson said he would instruct the jurors Tuesday and they could begin their deliberations.
Mr. Hamilton referred to an incident involving a juror earlier in the week. It was clear that the juror either heard or thought she heard a threat issued against her. The judge therefore had no choice but to discharge her.
The incident raised the question of honest belief, Mr. Hamilton said. If she was wrong, she had made an honest mistake. He asked jurors to remember that phrase.
He also asked them to remember the pain and anguish friends and relatives of the two men have suffered since their deaths. The only thing worse would be if the right man is not punished.
Witnesses had said TJ and Brenard had a physical fight that night; that TJ left and came back with a gun, shooting Brenard and then his brother. But was it reasonable that they did in fact see what they said they saw? Mr. Hamilton asked.
He concluded that they had reconstructed their evidence and honestly believed it because Renold said it was TJ who shot them.
Numerous witnesses had told the court that they spoke with Renold while waiting for an ambulance; he had said in various ways that TJ shot him and Chicken Bone – the nickname for Brenard.
Why would Renold think it was TJ? Mr. Hamilton pointed to the evidence of a Crown witness who told the court that when TJ left the scene after the fight, Renold said ‘TJ gone to get a gun.’
Mr. Hamilton suggested that was what was lodged in Renold’s mind. ‘He is of the view that TJ has gone to get a gun, so any gun that fires after that he doesn’t even have to see them and that is why in his mind it would be TJ.’
He suggested a scenario in which someone had a private grievance against Chicken Bone and Brenard, heard Renold say that TJ had gone to get a gun, and seized the moment to shoot the two of them and run away.
He pointed to Crown evidence that police had picked up somebody else before they went to TJ’s home. Maybe the person picked up was the wrong one, but the police must have got some information to involve him. He asked why police waited seven and a half hours to go to TJ’s.
The witnesses at the scene that night were making an honest mistake, he summarised; increasing the numbers of witnesses making that mistake was not going to make it true.
But, Mr. Hamilton said, he was accusing Chief Inspector Marlon Bodden of not speaking the truth. Mr. Bodden had told the court about a conversation he said he had with TJ, in which TJ admitted going back to the scene of the fight, but not intending anyone any harm. The attorney said the police officer was trying to bolster the evidence of the eye-witnesses because they all had criminal convictions.
Witnesses had differed as to what clothes TJ was wearing and whether his hair was long or cut.
Apart from discrepancies in witnesses’ evidence, Mr. Hamilton said the scientific evidence supported the defence.
The evidence of pathologist Dr. John Heidingsfelder was that Chicken Bone’s gunshot wounds were grouped around his heart, Mr. Hamilton said. He suggested that was the mark of a marksman, an assassin, someone who came to murder – not someone who had been drinking all night. This was a reference to evidence that TJ had been drinking at Pirates Cove Bar that night.
Further, TJ was found not to have any gun shot residue on him. But Chicken Bone had gunshot residue on both hands. If he fired a gun that night, the version jurors were given by the eye-witnesses was false, Mr. Hamilton said.
Ms Richards also addressed the issue of gunshot residue in her speech to the jury, noting the conclusions of expert witness Michael Martinez. He had told the court that the presence of the microscopic particles of gunshot residue indicated that Brenard may have discharged a firearm, may have handled a discharged firearm or was in close proximity to a discharged firearm.
There was no mystery as to why anyone shot so many times at close range would have gunshot residue on any part of him, Ms Richards said.
As to witness credibility, she asked if the fact that people had done wrong in the past meant they were not speaking the truth about a serious matter like this. It was clear they felt deeply about what had happened.
Renold’s identification of TJ as the shooter was made when he was coherent and oriented, Ms Richards pointed out. It was made at an important point in his life, when he believed he was not going to make it. Believing he was going to die, did he tell lies?
Ms Richards described the defendant as a brash young man who had the opportunity to get rid of evidence and gunshot residue in the seven hours before police went to his home.
TJ had admitted having an altercation in which Brenard got the better of him. Cross-examined by Ms Richards, he had agreed it was not a laughing matter. The Crown’s case was that TJ took it seriously; he left the scene and returned, bent on evening the score.
In giving evidence, TJ denied saying things to Chief Inspector Marlon Bodden; he said it was Mr. Bodden telling him things that witnesses had said.
But, Ms Richards pointed out, Mr. Bodden had told the court that TJ told him Chicken Bone pinned him to the ground and despite his struggling he couldn’t get away. The defendant was the only person who said this.
Asked why the eye-witnesses might tell lies on him, TJ said ‘They could have been high, drunk.’
Both attorneys commented on the fact that no firearm was ever recovered. They discussed the evidence of two experts pertaining to cartridge casings found at the scene and bullets recovered from Brenard’s body.