McLaughlin guilty of murder

Defendant asked for alternative charge

William David Martinez McLaughlin, 34, was found guilty on Thursday of murdering Brian Rankine Carter in 2008. It was his second trial by jury and second guilty verdict. The only sentence in Cayman for murder is imprisonment for life.

The day before the verdict, before the jury came in to hear Justice Charles Quin start summing up the case, Defence Attorney Nicholas Dixey said McLaughlin had instructed him to invite the judge to leave to the jury an alternative charge of being an accessory after the fact to the murder.

Justice Quin invited comments and Solicitor General Cheryll Richards cited the Criminal Procedure Code – on an indictment for murder, a person found not guilty of murder may be found guilty of other specified offences, including manslaughter and being an accessory after the fact.

Ms Richards noted that the evidence given in the trial would have to be linked to the alternative charge in some way.

Mr. Dixey accepted that the accessory has to do something to assist the principal.

Justice Quin considered the matter overnight and decided against giving the jury the alternative charge to consider.

He referred to Lord Bingham’s 2006 opinion on the matter. That authority said, “The public interest in the administration of justice is, in my opinion, best served if in any trial on indictment the trial judge leaves to the jury… any obvious alternative offence, which there is evidence 
to support.”

After other remarks, Lord Bingham continued, “I would also confine the rule to alternative verdicts obviously raised by the evidence”.

In this case, Justice Quin said, McLaughlin’s own evidence was that he did nothing – he did not assist in any way. Neither the Crown nor the Defence had raised any evidence that could serve as a basis for the charge of being an accessory, the judge concluded.

He summed up the evidence for the jury of 10 women and two men, reminding them they were the judges of fact. He also gave instructions on the law regarding murder and made no mention of accessory after the fact.

The Caymanian Compass has reported the evidence extensively, 8-21 April.

Brian Rankine Carter was 20 when he died of multiple chop wounds to his face, head and arms. His body was found lifeless and naked in a parking lot off McField Lane in George Town on the night of Friday, 16 May 2008.

During the trial, which began on 6 April, jurors heard that Brian travelled to the George Town location from the Eastern Star Bar in East End with McLaughlin and McLaughlin’s co-worker Jason Hinds in their work van.

The evidence was that neither man knew Brian, but one or the other agreed to transport Brian in exchange for ganja. When they reached McField Lane, Brian went to get the ganja, but it apparently was not enough. This led to a confrontation that escalated and ended with Brian being attacked with a machete.

After the incident, the men left the scene in the van. Three people were on the balcony of a nearby building and one of them saw a business name on the van. Its licence number was also noted. When they later went to their vehicle, they saw the body and police were called.

Based on the description of the van, police searched the Island the next morning via helicopter and saw the van at a construction site. Other officers approached by land and found McLaughlin and Hinds.

Hinds was initially suspected because he was the driver of the van. McLaughlin was asked his whereabouts that Friday night and he said he went to the Eastern Star and then went home about midnight.

Both men were taken into custody while investigations continued. Hinds soon gave police his account of what had happened, saying McLaughlin killed Brian.

McLaughlin, meanwhile, exercised his right to remain silent. He also chose not to give evidence during his first trial in 2009.

That guilty verdict was appealed and the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal overturned the verdict in August 2010, ordering a new trial. The successful ground of appeal was that Justice Alex Henderson had misdirected the jury.

Meanwhile, Hinds had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the murder in that he received, transported and assisted McLaughlin in disposing of articles of clothing and weapons from the scene of the killing. He was sentenced to three and a half years.

During McLaughlin’s second trial, he elected to give evidence and he told the court that Hinds was the one who killed Brian. The men’s employer also gave evidence on McLaughlin’s behalf, attesting to his good work habits and general character.

The Crown’s case included evidence from Hinds, police officers involved in the investigation and three expert witnesses. Their expertise included blood spatter analysis and tool markings.

Other evidence included the finding of McLaughlin’s work cap under Brian’s foot.

In his instructions to the jurors, Justice Quin said they had to weigh and assess the credibility of Hinds: if they believed he was not telling the truth, they had to find McLaughlin not guilty. If they were not sure, their verdict would be not guilty. Only if they were sure Hinds was telling the truth could they find McLaughlin guilty as charged.

Ms Richards was assisted in conducting the case for the prosecution by Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban.

Mr. Dixey instructed Attorney Mark Tomassi for McLaughlin, as he did in the first trial.