Four men charged in connection with unlicensed firearms found in a West Bay
attic were found not guilty, with a Grand
Court jury returning unanimous verdicts Wednesday
On 7 April 2008, police found two
shotguns, a P-Beretta and a Remington, in the attic of an apartment rented by
Keith Brian Orrett, 41. He was charged with possession of both firearms because,
the Crown alleged, 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.
Brian Emmanuel Borden, 24, and
Keith Rohan Montaque, 21, were charged with possession of the Remington shotgun.
Bjorn Connery Ebanks, 25; and Montaque
were charged with possession of the Beretta.
All three men were present in the
apartment when the police found the guns and their DNA profiles linked them to
one or, in Montaque’s case, both of the firearms.
In his directions
to jurors, Justice Charles Quin said they had to consider the case for and
against each defendant separately on each count.
He made three points about Orrett’s
statement, instructing jurors that it
was evidence only against himself and not against any of the other men. This
was because he gave the statement in their absence and it was not tested under
Officers at the scene when the guns
were found said Orrett denied knowledge of them: he said they were not his, he
did not know whose they were and he did not know who put them in the attic. The
next day, however, Orrett gave a statement detailing who was in his apartment
that weekend and who he saw sitting on his sofa cleaning a gun. He said he
started praying nobody would get hurt.
Justice Quin said jurors might
think Orrett was lying. If they thought he was lying, they were entitled to
think the lie supported the case against him. But they were also entitled to
ask why he lied. The lie itself was not proof of guilt.
Defence Attorney John Fox had pointed
out that it would have been easier for Orrett to say nothing. He suggested that
Orrett was paralysed with fear when he saw the one gun and was not in any
position to do anything about it.
Justice Quin said this raised the
question of duress – whether Orrett was driven to act as he did either because
of threat or because of the circumstances.
Defence Attorney Nick Hoffman questioned
why police had not dusted the area around the hatch to the attic to see if they
could find any fingerprints.
He, along with Attorneys Nicholas
Dixey and Ben Tonner, criticised the quality of the DNA evidence presented. They
raised questions about the possibility of 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
None of the men gave evidence or
Crown Counsel Tricia Hutchinson and
Candia James presented the case for the Prosecution.