Not guilty verdicts in firearms trial

DNA was part of Crown’s case

 Four men charged with possession of
unlicensed firearms were found not guilty, with a Grand Court jury returning unanimous
verdicts Wednesday afternoon.

On 7 April 2008, police found two
shotguns, a P-Beretta and a Remington, in the attic of a West Bay
apartment rented by Keith Brian Orrett, 41. The Crown’s case was that he possessed
both firearms by virtue of the fact he had them knowingly on the premises over which
he had custody and control.

In a statement to police that was
read to the jury, Orrett admitted knowledge of one of the guns. He said he saw
one of his co-accused handling the gun, but he did not do anything about it
because he was afraid for his safety and that of his children.

Also charged were Brian Emmanuel Borden,
24; Bjorn Connery Ebanks, 25; and Keith Rohan Montaque, 21. They were present
in the apartment when the police found the guns and their DNA profiles linked
them to one or both of the firearms.

Defence attorneys criticised the
quality of the DNA evidence and raised the questions of both contamination of
samples and the possibility of someone’s DNA being transferred to a surface
without that person having touched the surface. Further, they argued, touching
something does not mean possessing it.

Justice Charles Quin defined
possession as knowledge, custody and control. Custody can be acquired briefly,
he pointed out. For example, hiding a gun in the attic was being in control of

The judge also commented on the DNA
evidence. Jurors had heard that there was a factor of plus or minus 10 in the
confidence level of the DNA statistics that were cited.

For example, as Defence Attorney
Nicholas Dixey pointed out, the possibility of another person showing the same
partial DNA profile as Bjorn Ebanks was one in 1,400. The factor of minus 10
would put that number as one person in 140. In a population of 55,000 people,
he suggested, 392 people could have given the same sample.

Attorneys Nicholas Hoffman and Ben
Tonner presented similar arguments on behalf of Brian Borden and Keith Montaque

In discussing the plus or minus 10
factor, Justice Quin told jurors that, in fairness to the defendants, they
should really only go down.

Going up, that is, using the plus
10 factor, would have meant that in Ebanks’ case, the likelihood of finding
another person with a profile that matched would be one in 14,000.

Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson and
Candia James presented the case for the Prosecution.

Keith Orrett was represented by
Attorneys John Fox and James Stenning.

See complete report in the print
edition of the Caymanian Compass.