Fingerprints challenged in Gareau murder case

Defence Attorney Anthony Akiwumi objected to fingerprint evidence the Crown wants to introduce in the trial of Josue Carrillo-Perez for murder of Martin Gareau. The killing took place on a date unknown between 16th and 20th May 2008.

After advising Justice Roy Anderson on Monday that his client wished to be tried by judge alone, Mr. Akiwumi submitted arguments on Wednesday that he acknowledged would be controversial. But, he said, they were important to his client and to the investigation of crime in the Cayman Islands.

He objected to fingerprint evidence in general and in particular he objected to the witnesses the Crown proposed to call as fingerprint experts. He said they were not reliable experts and should not be entitled to express an opinion as to whether latent prints allegedly found at the scene are attributable to Carrillo-Perez.

He also questioned how many fingerprints were on file in Cayman that were available for comparison. Further, he stated there was no basis whatsoever for justifying the assertion that no other person in the world has the same fingerprints.

Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward responded to the arguments and Justice Anderson was scheduled to deliver his decision late yesterday morning.

When Carrillo-Perez was first brought to court after being charged, Mr. Ward advised that the evidence included two fingerprint impressions in blood on an inner door that leads to the garage area of Mr. Gareau’s residence.

‘When sample fingerprints of the accused were compared with the fingerprint impressions on the door, the expert concluded that they were made by the same person,’ Mr. Ward said.

Perez was arrested on 5 June, processed and advised of his rights. He said the only time he had been to the home of Mr. Gareau was in April. Perez further stated the last time he spoke with Mr. Gareau was on Sunday, 18 May, when Mr. Gareau phoned him. ‘He denies presence at the scene or any involvement in the murder,’ Mr. Ward told the court (Caymanian Compass, 16 June 2008).

On Wednesday, Mr. Akiwumi said there was no dispute – his client had been a guest at Mr. Gareau’s house three or four weeks before the incident.

During the preliminary inquiry, one of the Crown witnesses giving evidence about fingerprints said he had applied the technique referred to ACE-V: Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation and Verification.

Mr. Akiwumi said the evidence should not be admissible because there was no verification of the witness’ opinion. He asserted that the witness had demonstrated an error rate of at least 25 per cent.

It is for the judge to decide whether a witness is qualified to be accepted as an expert, all agreed. Generally such persons are asked to cite their academic background, length of experience and specialised area of concentration.