Court dismisses EE murder appeal

Trevino Tennson Bodden, convicted in 2007 for murder of two men in East End, had his appeal dismissed and convictions upheld during the session of the Court of Appeal that ended earlier this month.

Bodden, known as TJ, was found guilty of fatally shooting brothers Brenard Dale Scott and Renold Pearson on the night of 1 November 2006. The shootings took place near their mother’s home on Fiddler’s Way in East End. Brenard was 36 at the time and Renold was 48.

TJ, their cousin, had just turned 21.

His trial took place in November 2007. In giving evidence, he told the jury that he and Brenard did have drinks at a nearby bar that night. He agreed there was a physical fight on the way home and Brenard got him down on the ground. Afterwards, he said, he went to his residence and did not return to the Fiddler’s Way area.

Various eyewitnesses said he did, and they described the shootings.

In arguing the appeal, Howard Hamilton QC emphasised two points.

One was based on the evidence of gunshot residue and the other on the procedure used by the trial judge when one of the jurors was discharged.

Mr. Hamilton pointed out that no gunshot residue was found on TJ when the police went to his house, but residue was found on Brenard’s hands.

Solicitor General Cheryll Richards, who conducted the case for the Prosecution, said the trial judge had directed the jury very carefully on this point.

She had asked the jury to reach the common sense conclusion that TJ washed his hands after the shooting.

The trial judge had told the jury no evidence provided a full explanation for the presence of gunshot residue on Brenard. The Defence suggested that he had fired a gun. Another possible explanation was that he was advancing toward the gun and trying to grab it or deflect the shots.

Court of Appeal President Sir John Chadwick said the jury had eyewitness evidence on this point and the scientific evidence did not contain anything that made the eyewitness evidence incredible.

Ms Richards pointed to other aspects of the evidence, including Renold’s dying declaration that it was TJ who shot him and Brenard.

The judge’s treatment of the juror situation arose during the trial while TJ was giving evidence. The judge received word that a juror said TJ had threatened her.

The trial continued with 11 jurors.

In the appeal, Mr. Hamilton said the judge should have conducted an inquiry before discharging the juror.

Sir John asked what an inquiry would have achieved. He questioned whether it was important enough to subject an unwilling juror to that ordeal.

Mr. Hamilton pointed out that his client was already accused of a double murder and then accused of threatening a female juror: ‘He would be viewed as a monster.’

One of the questions was whether there was such a contamination for the remaining jurors that nothing could be said to redeem the situation. A related question was whether something could have been said, but the judge didn’t say it. A third question was whether the whole jury should have been discharged. It was never determined whether any threat had in fact been made.

Ms Richards said the trial judge did apply his mind to the possible effect on the jury after the discharge of the one juror. He formed the view that the remaining jurors would be able to deliberate on the verdict fairly and impartially. His decision was an exercise of discretion that was not outside the range of reasonableness.

She pointed out that the judge had sought the opinion of counsel for both sides. His warning to the remaining jurors about the incident was robust and carefully phrased. It could not be presumed they would ignore it.

Finally, Ms Richards said the judge asked both sides if either wanted him to give the jury another warning before summing up the case. Told no, the judge said he would be guided by what they wanted.

Sir John said that was a good example of a judge consulting with attorneys before summing up, as opposed to consulting after the jurors had been sent out.

Hearing the appeal with Sir John were Justice Ian Forte and Justice Abdullah Conteh.