Court rejects murder conviction appeal

The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Friday rejected
arguments on behalf of Randy Leebert Martin against his conviction earlier this
year for the murder of Sabrina Schirn in March 2009.

Martin, 37, was serving a sentence for aggravated
burglary at the time of the murder.

He worked with other inmates at Wilderness Farm, a
complex in East End off High Rock Road.

The body of Ms Schirn, 21, was found in a bushy area off
High Rock Road in East End on 17 March 2009.

She had suffered multiple chop wounds. Her friends last
had contact with her on the morning of 11 March.

During trial, Martin said Ms Schirn had visited him at
the farm that morning, and that the last time he spoke to her was by phone
after she had driven away.  

Martin’s trial began on 25 November 2009. He had
initially elected trial by jury but then asked for judge alone because many
people knew Ms Schirn or her family and he thought jurors would be affected by
that knowledge.

In making the application to change mode of trial,
Defence Attorney Adam King described the murder case as notorious.

Justice Charles Quin allowed the change of election and
the trial proceeded.

Martin was found guilty on 26 January 2010.

The Court of Appeal heard arguments from Mr. King and
Solicitor General Cheryll Richards all day Friday.

After a brief recess, Court president Sir John Chadwick
announced that he, Justice Elliott Mottley and Justice Abdullah Conteh were
satisfied that the appeal should be dismissed. He said their reasons would be
put in writing and handed down.

Mr. King had argued that, in a trial by judge alone, the
judge’s mind must be clearly revealed as to how he has reached his verdict. But
in this trial the judge did not comment sufficiently on the evidence of
Martin’s nephew, Lance Myles, which he described as substantial.

Mr. King said Martin had no motive for killing Ms Schirn,
as she had been providing him with cigarettes, drugs and physical
gratification. On the other hand, he suggested that Myles did have a motive.

In response, Ms Richards pointed to various parts of the
judge’s 62-page judgment in which he commented on Lance Myles’ evidence.

She also noted there was nothing to connect Myles to the
murder scene. “The evidence does not give rise to the possibility that he might
have been at the scene or the risk that he might have been at the scene,” she
said.

Ms Richards quoted a section of Justice Quin’s judgment
in which he accepted that if he felt in any way unsure, his duty would be to
find Martin not guilty.

A second ground of appeal concerned what Mr. King said
was a mistake on the judge’s part in interpreting evidence from a witness he
had described as honest and reliable.

It had to do with a description of a man wearing prison
pants getting into a white car near the prison farm on the morning of 11 March.

Ms Richards replied that the judge did recognise there
was an issue regarding the complexion of the man who had been seen entering a
white car.

She was assisted by Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn.

When Justice Quin set out his reasons for finding Martin
guilty, he included comments on the law.

He said a judge hearing a matter without a jury must
clearly reveal his reasons for reaching his conclusions.

He must give his point of view and how his view of the
law affected his approach to the facts.

He said the defendant was entitled to know the reasons
for the judge’s conclusions.

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