A judge will decide this week the guilt or innocence of two men accused of robbing Chisholm’s Supermarket in January 2007.
The pair – Christopher Kelvin Ebanks and Jarolle Edwards – chose to be tried by judge alone.
On Monday the judge learned that DNA found on the collar of a camouflage jacket matched the DNA of Ebanks.
DNA expert Kevin Noppinger gave evidence in Grand Court that the odds of finding an individual other than Ebanks with the same profile were one in 280 trillion.
Questioned by Attorney John Furniss on behalf of Ebanks, Mr. Noppinger said it was correct that he could not say what day the contact would have occurred between Ebanks and the camouflage jacket.
Mr. Furniss later argued that the Crown could not show that the DNA could only have come from involvement in the robbery.
Edwards is alleged to have been the driver of the get-away car (Caymanian Compass, 3 February).
Justice Ingrid Mangatal heard last week that a camouflage jacket was worn by the person who entered the store with what looked like a gun and took $400 and a carton of cigarettes by threat of force.
Police found the jacket with other clothing in the Dodge Neon officers chased shortly after the robbery was reported. Store cashier Sheena Ebanks had identified a Dodge Neon after a customer told her he had seen a man wearing a camouflage jacket and red bandana get into the car.
Mr. Noppinger told the court DNA is material found in the cells of all living things. Human DNA is different in every person, except that identical twins would have identical DNA profiles. The more complete a DNA profile is, the less chance there is of other people matching it.
For example, he explained, he had also been asked to test a red bandana. Mr. Noppinger said he could not exclude Ebanks, but the odds of finding someone else who matched were one in 14. In other words, in every group of 14 people randomly selected, he would expect to find another match.
A probability of 1 in 14 would be common; a probability of one in 18 billion would be ‘extremely rare,’ he said.
He agreed he had tested a T-shirt and excluded both Ebanks and Edwards as having a matching DNA profile. There was somebody else in the DNA database who did match it.
No DNA was obtained from the car itself – neither on the steering wheel, gear shift nor door handle.
On behalf of Edwards, Attorney Keva Reid asked about his examination of another T-shirt. Mr. Noppinger confirmed he had obtained DNA profiles of two different persons. Edwards was one of them, he indicated earlier, and the odds of finding another person with that profile were one in 9.9 billion.
Questioned further by Crown Counsel Nicola Moore, Mr. Noppinger said he would not expect DNA on an item just because somebody touched it. People don’t shed much DNA from the hand surface, he explained.
After the close of the Crown’s case, Ebanks and Edwards chose not to give evidence or call witnesses, as is their right.
On Tuesday, both defence attorneys argued that the Crown had not proved its case to the requisite standard of beyond reasonable doubt.
Mrs. Reid said the case against Edwards rose or fell on the question of identification. The primary evidence against him was from the police officer who said he chased a Dodge Neon and saw it overturn in a cloud of dust.
The officer said he saw the passenger come out and drop a blue bag as he ran into the bush. He was not wearing a shirt. The officer got a look at the man’s face for 1½ seconds. Mrs. Reid wondered if the cloud of dust dissipated so quickly that the officer could see the face clearly.
The officer said he did not see a name on the blue bag, although every other officer at the scene saw it. Mrs. Reid suggested the officer was distancing himself from the bag because he had said he identified Edwards from a photo collection by his face, not by his name.
The shirt inside the bag had Edwards’ DNA on it, but it was his shirt and the Crown had brought evidence to show a connection between Edwards and the bag. But just because the bag was at the scene did not mean Edwards was there.
Mr. Furniss began by pointing to the Crown’s suggestion that Edwards had driven the car that picked up Ebanks after the robbery and then they had changed places. He said that fit the officer’s evidence that Edwards was in the passenger seat when the car overturned.
But the same officer said that the man who came out of the driver’s seat had a dark complexion. It could never be said that Ebanks had a dark complexion, Mr. Furniss told the court.
Further, the cashier at Chisholm’s said the man spoke like a Caymanian from West Bay. But the Jamaican witness who saw the robber on the road later said he sounded Jamaican.
The DNA evidence simply showed that at some time Ebanks either was in contact with or wore certain of the items tested. There was no evidence as to when the Dodge Neon was stolen; it could have been the night before the robbery. The Crown could not show that the DNA on the clothing in the car could only have come from Ebanks’ involvement in the robbery the next day.
He pointed out that the navy blue T-shirt with someone else’s DNA had been found in the car on top of the camouflage jacket.