Jury to consider verdict today in murder trial
Jurors in the Brian Rankine murder trial will retire to consider their verdict today in what was last week described as the most disgusting crime they are ever likely to see.
Lawyers on Thursday gave closing arguments in the case after the defendant, William McLaughlin Martinez, 32, opted not to give evidence to the Grand Court trial.
‘What happened to this poor boy is amongst the most foul and disgusting crimes that you could ever have the misfortune of having to try,’ Defence Attorney Mark Tomassi told the jury.
Summing up the Crown’s case, Solicitor General Cheryll Richards said forensic evidence, coupled with the testimony of Crown witness Jason Hinds, pointed ‘significantly and irrefutably towards the defendant’.
She reminded jurors of Hinds’ account – that he saw Martinez ‘chopping like he was crazy’ – in an attack that inflicted 48 wounds and left what police officers described as ‘pools of blood’ around the dead man.
Ms Richards said forensic tests found Rankine’s blood all over the passenger side of the work van, where Hinds claims Martinez was sitting.
She said Rankine’s blood was ‘painted’ all over Martinez’ boots and was also found on his wallet and belt. She reminded jurors that an expert witness said blood splatters on the boots indicated they were within 50cm – 1.5 meters from the blood source.
Ms Richard also pointed to a Fisher’s Plumbing and Maintenance hat (the company that both men worked for) that was found under Rankine’s foot, which had both Martinez’ DNA and Rankine’s blood on it.
‘This is not that hat of Jason Hinds; this is the hat of the defendant’s’ Ms Richards said. ‘How did his hat get there?’
Hinds’ shirt, by contrast, simply didn’t have enough blood on it for him to be the murderer, she said.
The Solicitor General said jurors had to decide whether police failings in the case (See Caymanian Compass 16 July) represented a serious flaw; incompetence, or an attempt at collusion.
‘The crown does not suggest for a minute that the RCIPS is perfect and that they do not make mistakes but we ask you to look at each item … and realise they are not fatal to this case.’
‘One man’s word’
Insisting that the only safe decision jurors could make was to acquit his client, Mr. Tomassi insisted police ‘have put one man on trial because they have taken the word of another.’
Mr. Tomassi levelled scorn on the testimony of Hinds, who he said the jury must believe if they are to convict Martinez.
‘Once you say I don’t believe Jason Hinds, that’s it,’ Mr. Tomassi said. ‘Once he is caught telling lies, the whole thing begins to unravel.’
He said Hinds’ claim that he had only once used drugs in the Cayman Islands were contradicted by his boss, who said Hinds liked to smoke ganja.
‘Has Jason Hinds told you the whole truth about his use of drugs? Of course he has not.’
Mr. Tomassi lambasted Hinds’ claim he didn’t know why he was driving Martinez and Rankine to McField Lane, George Town, where Rankine’s mutilated and naked body was later discovered.
‘What’s he doing in that vehicle?’ Mr. Tomassi asked. ‘What is Jason Hinds doing in that vehicle if he doesn’t know where he is going or why?’
The more likely version, Mr. Tomassi said, was that the three men went to McField Lane to buy drugs.
He asked the jurors to consider what they knew about the McField Lane area.
‘Is that the sort of place you drive a car or van into in the middle of the night for no reason?’
Mr. Tomassi then outlined a different version of events, suggesting that when Rankine could not get Hinds the drugs he wanted in exchange for his ‘cab fare’ to George Town, Hinds lost his temper.
‘And then, in the most monstrous rage, he didn’t merely kill him but [embarked upon] the most exacerbated form of killing I have ever seen.’
Pointing to police failures in the case, Mr. Tomassi said jurors couldn’t be clear whether they were looking at a police ‘cock-up’ or a ‘stitch-up’. What they could be sure of is that Brian Ranknie’s death was not properly investigated, he said.
Mr. Tomassi again questioned the relationship between Detective Inspector Joseph Wright – a key investigator in the case – and Hinds.
Reminding jurors that both men have admitted knowing each other from their Jamaica hometown, Mr. Tomassi said jurors at best had to worry about their independence and at worst, something else.
‘You are being asked to take a vital decision against a backdrop of misadventure, incompetence and possibly worse.’
The defence attorney praised Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kennett, the man in charge of the murder probe, who he said had the courage to stand before the court ‘ram-rod straight and take the flack for those that should be taking the blame.’
But after everything that has been said in the case, Mr. Tomassi said jurors are left with a problem caused ‘in a large part by the admitted failures of the police.’
‘Can you say … you are satisfied so as to feel sure that at the end of the day [Martinez] is guilty beyond reasonable doubt’ he asked. ‘Surely there is doubt.’
Justice Alexander Henderson was due to give directions to the jury Monday morning before they retire to consider their verdict.