‘We made mistakes’
The policeman in charge of the Brian Rankine murder case admitted Tuesday that investigators made mistakes in the probe, but denied they got the wrong man.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kennett was giving evidence during a dramatic sixth day of testimony, which also saw another police officer suffer a medical emergency while in the witness box.
Mr. Kennett pointed to three mistakes; the failure to have defendant William McLaughlin Martinez’ clothes sent for forensic analysis after his arrest; failure to have a machete belonging to the initial suspect, Jason Hinds, sent for analysis; and the disappearance of a police video showing Hinds pointing out where Martinez allegedly disposed of key bits of evidence.
‘We have made some mistakes,’ Mr. Kennett said.
The lead investigator said he had a ‘dickey-fit’ when he learned on the trial’s first day that Martinez’ clothes were not sent for analysis.
Asked why Hinds’ machete wasn’t ‘exhibit No. 1’ in the case, Mr. Kennett said: ‘It’s is unfortunate that the machete wasn’t examined at the time. I can’t explain that; it clearly should have been.’
He could also offer no explanation as to why the video tape disappeared other than to say the officer responsible for it, Police Constable Ronny Pollard, was ‘under the cosh’ at the time and could have had ‘personal reasons’ for what happened.
Martinez is charged with the murder of 20-year-old Brain Rankine-Carter, whose naked and mutilated body was found in a parking lot on McField Lane, in George Town, in the early hours of Saturday, 17 May, 2008.
Hinds, a Jamaican national, admits being with Martinez and Rankine at the time of the killing and says he saw Martinez attack Rankine with a cutlass, ‘chopping like he was crazy’.
Martinez’ lawyers claim Hinds was really the killer and was only able to shift the blame to Martinez with the help of a corrupt Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officer.
Hinds has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of being an accessory after the fact of murder and is on bail awaiting sentencing on that charge.
Mr. Kennett’s appearance was pushed forward Tuesday after a police investigator suddenly became ill in the witness box.
Detective Sergeant Lauriston Burton suddenly appeared to become disoriented about 10 minutes into questioning by Solicitor General Cheryll Richards. Sgt. Burton’s eyes glassed over and he began sweating profusely before Justice Alexander Henderson adjourned the court and later excused Sgt. Burton.
Solicitor General Richards stated in court Wednesday that Sgt. Burton’s condition was more serious than first thought, and that the blood flow to his brain may have been affected.
Mr. Burton was scheduled to be flown to a Miami hospital Wednesday for further treatment.
The right man
Despite the police blunders, Mr. Kennett was adamant that police did not get the wrong man.
‘He (Hinds) remained a suspect until we established a lot of the forensics, which in the end pointed away from Jason Hinds,’ Mr. Kennett said.
‘The amount of blood flowing out of poor Brian was a huge amount of blood and if you look at the amount of blood on the Nissan (which Rankine’s body was found behind), whoever had killed Brian would have had a huge amount of blood on them,’ he added.
The lead investigator revealed police found a ‘huge amount’ of blood on Martinez’ shoes and that the suspect’s DNA was also found under Rankine’s foot.
By contrast, there was only ‘minute quantities’ of blood on the jeans and top Hinds wore on the night, Mr. Kennett said.
But Mr. Tomassi pointed out that there could have been just as much blood on Hinds’ shoes – saying police do not know because Hinds admits cleaning his shoes with bleach after the incident.
The court heard further conflicting accounts Tuesday about what happened to both Hinds’ machete and a knife that two investigating officers have claimed they recovered from Hinds’ apartment on Midnight Drive in Bodden Town.
The knife is not in evidence in the case and officers have been unable to say what happened to it.
Mr. Kennett said Tuesday he was not aware that a knife was recovered from Hinds’ apartment.
The lead investigator also came to the defence of both Detective Sergeants Joseph Wright and Lauriston Burton, describing them as honest, industrious and hard working officers.
‘The idea of letting a guilty man off would be as abhorrent to them as it is to me – it just wouldn’t happen,’ he said.
Mr. Kennett defended Sgt. Wright from defence team claims that he conspired with Hinds to ‘concoct’ a story that allowed him to pin blame on Martinez.
Mr. Kennett said he knew Sgt. Wright and Hinds grew up in the same area of Jamaica, but said there was no suggestion they knew each other well enough to throw the integrity of the investigation into jeopardy.
‘They weren’t friends; they were acquaintances,’ Mr. Kennett said. ‘There was certainly no family bond or close ties – they just came from the same area.’
Earlier Tuesday, Sgt. Wright told the court he knew Hinds from ‘seeing him on the road’ in an area of Spanish Town, Jamaica, but he denied there was any more to their relationship than that.
‘I never had reason to speak to him; I just saw him, on more than one occasion,’ he said.
But Mr. Tomassi insisted that Sgt. Wright took it easy on Hinds during interviews and didn’t ask a single hard question of him.
Mr. Tomassi grilled Sgt. Wright on why Hinds had chosen to tell his side of the story to him, turning away a lawyer, and also questioned whether the account Sgt. Wright took down, in the absence of any witnesses, could be believed.
Sgt. Wright said he didn’t know why Hinds had asked for him and insisted ‘what I did was not irregular.’
‘It’s is unfortunate that the machete wasn’t examined at the time. I can’t explain that; it clearly should have been.’
Peter Kennett, Detective Chief Inspector