Forensic evidence supports main witness, Solicitor General says
Solicitor General Cheryll Richards told jurors on Monday that at the heart of the case they were hearing, it was the word of Crown witness Jason Hinds against that of defendant William Martinez McLaughlin about what happened on the night Brian Rankine Carter was killed.
Both men were with Brian, having given him a ride from East End to George Town on Friday, 16 May, 2008. Hinds and McLaughlin were co-workers and Hinds was driving their employer’s van. Each said the other talked him into making the trip to town that night. Each said the other killed Brian after they reached his destination, an empty lot off McField Lane.
Ms Richards said it was the Crown’s position that Hinds should be believed because his evidence was consistent and supported by forensic evidence. She agreed that if jurors believed McLaughlin, that was the end of the matter.
Pathologist Bruce Hyma had told the court that over 50 injuries were inflicted on Brian’s body, both chop wounds and puncture wounds, and the level of blood loss was almost the entire blood volume of the body, some five to six litres.
Hinds had told the court he didn’t know he had blood on his clothes until the next morning. Then he buried his shirt and pants and used bleach to clean his shoes. He subsequently led police to where the clothes were buried and jurors have seen the items.
Ms Richards reviewed the evidence of blood spatter expert Jeffrey Johnson, then brought out Hinds’ shirt again and asked jurors if it were the shirt being worn by the man who caused the 50 injuries.
She pointed out that a white marina [man’s sleeveless undershirt] had been tied around a rock and thrown into the sea along with Brian’s iPod and Nintendo. She asked why the person who committed the crime would dispose of those items but go home with the rest of his clothes and the machete alleged by the Defence to have been used to kill Brian.
The machete in court was recovered from Hinds’ home. Ms Richards reminded the jury of the evidence of tool mark expert Allen Greenspan. He used a special microscope to compare marks in a bone from Brian’s arm with marks on the machete in question. He said there were some similar characteristics, but some marks did not align. The machete could not be eliminated, but neither could it be identified as the weapon.
If it were the murder weapon, would it not have been disposed of, Ms Richards asked. What was inexplicable was McLaughlin’s evidence that Hinds had stopped somewhere in Bodden Town, on the way back to East End, to throw away a knife and a handkerchief.
It had been alleged that Hinds made a deal with police to make it look as though McLaughlin was the murderer. But what was the evidence of such a conspiracy? Ms Richards referred to the evidence of Sergeant Joseph Wright that he had seen Hinds before, when they both lived in Jamaica.
Hinds subsequently asked for Mr. Wright when he decided to make a clean breast of things. What is so sinister about knowing another person, she wondered.
The murder investigation was conducted by a team headed by Chief Inspector Peter Kennett, who was assisted by Inspector Lauriston Burton. Both had explained how the team operated and other officers also gave evidence. “The suggestion of a conspiracy is completely without foundation,” Ms Richards said.
McLaughlin was innocent until proven guilty, she pointed out, and it was the Crown’s duty to satisfy the jury of his guilt. He did not have to give evidence. Since he did, jurors were entitled to assess him like any other witness, considering whether his evidence was consistent and had the ring of truth.
If McLaughlin’s account of what happened was the truth, then Hinds attacked Brian with a tyre tool. Somehow Brian disarms him and ends up chasing after Hinds, who then rearms himself with a machete from the van. There are some 21 puncture wounds to Brian’s head and neck, so what was the sequence? Ms Richards asked. Did Brian really get up and go after Hinds?
McLaughlin told the court he was a foot to a foot and a half away from where Brian and Hinds were. Ms Richards suggested this evidence was contrived to explain his boots — one of which was described as painted with blood. After the incident, he had thrown his boots into the bush. How could he get blood on his boots, but none on his pants or marina? He had said the pants he wore on Saturday were the same ones he wore that Friday night, but Hinds had said they were not the same.
The Crown’s case was that the marina recovered from the sea was McLaughlin’s; why would Hinds be wearing a marina under a T-shirt under a work shirt? But if he did, why would he throw away the marina but not the T-shirt?
There was also McLaughlin’s cap, which he said he could not remember having on when they all got out of the van. But the cap was found under Brian’s foot, and that was consistent with Hinds’ account of McLaughlin being the one who had chopped Brian.