‘You’re the shotta-man’

Defence says Hinds murdered Brian Rankine

Defence lawyers claimed Wednesday that police charged the wrong man in the gruesome May 2008 murder of 20-year-old Brian Rankine, instead pointing the finger at Crown witness Jason Hinds.

They claimed that Hinds, a Jamaican national, was able to get away with the murder – and lay blame for the crime on his co-worker, William McLaughlin Martinez – with the help of a corrupt Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officer he knew from his Jamaican hometown.

Hinds admits being with Martinez on the night of the killing and has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder. He is awaiting sentence on that charge.

Cross-examining Hinds on the trial’s second day, defence attorney Mark Tomassi said Hinds had essentially put Martinez in his position in the version of events he ‘concocted’ with the police officer.

Hinds earlier told the jury that he saw Martinez attack Rankine with a cutlass, ‘chopping like he was crazy’ after a fight at a George Town address sometime after 10pm on 16 May, 2008 (see Caymanian Compass 10 July).

But Mr. Tomassi claimed Wednesday that it was really Hinds who lost control after Rankine failed to get enough drugs at a McField Lane property the three had driven to.

Mr. Tomassi said Hinds was drunk and fuelled by homophobic hatred, believing Rankine to be gay after he complimented his dancing earlier in the evening at the Eastern Star Bar, in East End.

‘You thought he was a battybwoy that had got in your way. You have a vile temper, don’t you?’ Mr. Tomassi said. ‘You are the shotta-man, aren’t you?’

‘No sir,’ Hinds responded.

‘Shotta-man’ was a term Hinds earlier claimed Martinez used to describe himself, which he said means a bad man or criminal. Explaining that Martinez was born in Honduras but spent his whole life in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Tomassi said Martinez doesn’t speak patois, as Hinds does, and wouldn’t use the term.

‘A fit of drunken hatred’

Mr. Tomassi laid out the defence team’s version of events leading up to the discovery of Rankine’s naked and mutilated body in a parking lot on McField Lane.

When they arrived there, Mr. Tomassi claimed Rankine went to a nearby house to buy drugs but came back empty handed because the dealer was not there. Mr. Tomassi said Hinds sent him back. ‘You said ‘battybwoy, you think I am going to take you from East End to George Town and go home empt y handed?”

Mr. Tomassi said Rankine this time came back with drugs, but not enough.

‘You said ‘the battybwoy wants to take me for a f—-king idiot’,’ Mr. Tomassi suggested. ‘No, I didn’t say that,’ Hinds shot back.

‘Then you said ‘shotta-man will kill you’,’ Mr. Tomassi continued. ‘You said ‘you don’t know the man; shotta-man will kill you’.’ Hinds again denied the account.

Mr. Tomassi claimed Hinds then grabbed Rankine from behind and, as he turned him around, plunged a weapon – speculated to be an ice pick or a tyre plug tool – into his neck. ‘No, sir,’ said Hinds.

‘There was a struggle and both of you went to the ground. You placed your left hand over his mouth, lifted his head and then, knowing you had hurt him, you went to your van for a weapon.’ ‘No, sir,’ Hinds again responded.

‘Brian tried to get to his feet and then, with a machete, you delivered a foul and terrible blow to his neck.’ ‘No, sir,’ said Hinds.

‘You hit him so hard and so powerfully that you almost cut off his head.’ ‘No sir.’

‘Then, in a fit of drunken hatred, you slashed and slashed and slashed at him and you killed him,’ Mr. Tomassi insisted. ‘No, sir,’ Hinds said.

Mr. Tomassi said Hinds then stripped Rankine’s clothes off as he lay dying, before turning him over and kicking him ‘in a completely gratuitous act of violence’.

‘Cop ignored evidence’

The officer that Mr. Tomassi claims was instrumental in helping Hinds escape the murder charge is Detective Sergeant Joseph Wright.

The defence team claimed Sgt. Wright, a Jamaican-born policeman, was a family friend of Hinds’ and ended up playing a key role in the murder case.

‘This was someone that was prepared to bend the rules as much as possible to ensure you got off as lightly as possible and to make sure someone else took the rap,’ Mr. Tomassi said.

Hinds agreed that the two came from the same place – Spanish Town – and that he knew where the officer lived, but denied that he was friends with Sgt. Wright. ‘We knew each other but not to speak to,’ he said.

The jury heard Sgt. Wright was the officer Hinds told his side of the story to while in custody, after earlier refusing to speak with a lawyer.

Mr. Tomassi said Sgt. Wright also interviewed Hinds; witnessed documents he signed; was the officer who granted him bail; and was the first person to explain to Hinds what the charge of being an accessory after the fact to murder meant. Hinds said his lawyer explained the meaning of the charge.

Mr. Tomassi claimed Sgt. Wright deliberately ignored key pieces of evidence when police went to Hinds’ Bodden Town home, including two knives and a machete that Mr. Tommassi said Hinds used, ‘at the least’, to bury his blood-stained clothes after the killing.

Hinds said he got blood on himself when he tried to pull Martinez away after he attacked Rankine.

Mr. Tomassi also questioned why the day after his arrest, Hinds and Sgt. Wright spent almost two hours together – alone – in a room at the Bodden Town police station without any other witnesses present and without any recording device taking note of what was said.

Mr. Tomassi said the two were getting their stories straight – a charge Hinds denied.

‘I didn’t feel he could do nothing [for me] but I felt more comfortable telling him the truth,’ Hinds said of his decision to tell the officer what happened. He said Wright kept notes of the conversation, which he later had him sign.

Sgt. Wright is due to appear as a witness in the case, which was been set down for nine days.

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