Suspended sentence for driving death

Dwayne Bruce Cayasso, 22, was sentenced on Monday to two years imprisonment, suspended for three years, and banned from driving for five years after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

Crown Counsel Nicola Moore confirmed on Tuesday that the Prosecution is appealing the sentence.

Cayasso was charged after an incident on 10 September 2005 in which his passenger, Gregory George Rankine, was killed.

Before the sentence hearing began, Justice Priya Levers asked if any member of the victim’s family were present. She was told no.

Ms Moore outlined the facts that led to the charge. She said Cayasso went to Mr. Rankine’s home around 5pm. The two young men left around 6.30pm and Mr. Rankine told his girl friend he’d be back around 8pm, so she could put the food on.

About 9pm the girlfriend became agitated and phoned him. He had gone to a bar with Cayasso.

Ms Moore said a server at the bar recalled serving Mr. Rankine three beers and Cayasso two beers. The two men left the bar around 11pm.

Cayasso was driving his grandfather’s truck on Shamrock Road. A witness who saw him shortly before the incident described his speed as ‘real fast’.

While going around a bend, Cayasso lost control and rear-ended another vehicle. The truck then went across the road, through a chain link fence, down a bank and into the side of a house. The value of damage to the house was over $31,000.

Emergency personnel attended and Mr. Rankine was declared dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt. The Traffic Examiner indicated that he might have survived the crash if he had been wearing a seatbelt.

Cayasso was given a breath test and his blood/alcohol reading was .161 at the time of the test. At the time of the incident it would have been .136 to .140. The legal limit in Cayman is .100.

Ms Moore said Mr. Rankine had suffered head injuries. The driver of the rear-ended vehicle suffered minor neck injuries. Cayasso had a broken arm and a broken leg.

Defence Attorney David McGrath did not speak at great length because he had submitted a bundle of information to the court the previous Friday. It included Cayasso’s medical reports, numerous letters of reference and sentences in previous cases of causing death by dangerous driving.

Condolences expressed

He said first that Cayasso wanted to express profoundest condolences to the family of Mr. Rankine, with who he had been friends for some time.

Mr. McGrath accepted that this offence involved alcohol, albeit one or two beers above the legal level; and speed, although it had not been precisely determined.

He described Cayasso as a young driver with little experience.

‘Who should never have been given that truck,’ the judge added.

Mr. McGrath also advised that the majority of damage to the truck had been on the driver’s side. Cayasso was wearing his seat belt.

He suffered serious and significant injuries. One reason this matter had taken so long was the need for Cayasso to undergo surgery in Miami. He has had pins inserted in all of his toes and bone grafted from his hip onto his ankle and heel. He already suffers from arthritis and will have a disability for the rest of his life, Mr. McGrath said.

He cited local cases in which sentences ranged from community service to 15 months imprisonment.

Justice Levers said her task was difficult. She was aware of public concern about the many deaths on the road. ‘I am more acutely aware that when I sit in judgment I am subject to judgment by the community in the Cayman Islands,’ she said. ‘For that reason and others, I want the Caymanian people to know in full the reason for sentencing this particular individual as I am about to do.’

She said this was a case of a young man who had been given a vehicle to drive that was too large for him, especially after only two years experience. ‘What young man would not enjoy this,’ she commented. ‘Whose fault is it? The parents, of course.’

Cayasso’s alcohol level was not overly aggravating, the judge said; the accident happened because he was driving at a high speed.

Personal details

The judge made reference to personal details that were not made public in court, but would have been part of a social inquiry report and/or other documents in the file.

‘What do I therefore do in view of the accused’s background? He is a young Caymanian with potential. He has obeyed the law all his life. He has seen his share of unhappiness by being the product a broken home. He has ADS. Knowing that, how dare these parents give him this huge vehicle?

‘In the accident he has been injured himself. He will live with this every day of his life. Can I or anyone in this room know what goes through his mind when he closes his eyes at night? One day when he has children will he ever have peace of mind when they start drinking and driving? Why is he standing there alone? Where are his parents who made this child responsible for this?’

On the other hand, Justice Levers considered the tremendous grief of the victim’s parents. Their son was gone forever – what could bring him back? ‘How can this court redress their grievance? The only salvation, perhaps, is that they will have nothing on their conscience.’

She asked if giving Cayasso imprisonment would make Mr. Rankine’s parents feel satisfied – ‘or is living with it his daily hell and punishment?’

The judge referred to new sentencing guidelines in England and said judges have been advised that incarceration is not the punishment unless it is a particularly aggravated offence. ‘But we are in Cayman and this mayhem on the road has to stop.’

She said if Cayasso were older she would have no difficulty in the type of sentence he should be given. But she considered his age, clean record and excellent references from all Caymanian law-abiding citizens.

‘His own misery in having to live with it for the rest of his life is punishment. However, he still must be punished.’ She said the difficulty was in the appropriate exercise of her discretion, ‘balancing the scales evenly between punishment and compensation for the victim’s family in that punishment….

‘It is my view that a custodial sentence would destroy another life. One has already been destroyed.’ For these reasons she imposed the two-year sentence and suspended it.