Verdicts awaited in murder trials

Victims were Martin Gareau and Alrick Peddie

Evidence and arguments concluded this week in two murder trials being heard by judge alone. No specific date has been given by either judge as to when they will deliver a verdict. 

The retrial of Josue Carillo-Perez began 23 May and concluded on Tuesday. He is accused of the May 2008 killing of Martin Gareau, whose body was found in the garage of his home in Beach Bay after the Discovery Day holiday weekend. Justice Algernon Smith heard the matter (Caymanian Compass, 8 June, 29 June). 

In the retrial, defence counsel Andrew Donne pointed to what he said were failures by police to investigate matters that might have assisted Perez. Once fingerprints on an internal door were matched to Perez, all other reasonable possibilities were ignored or discounted, he said. He suggested the judge should not rely on the evidence of fingerprint expert William MacKay because of the concession by expert Clare Hasart. Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward invited the judge to look again at the “so-called concession” as to whether the print was in blood or blood was in the print. 

Trial for Roger Deward Bush, Jose Sanchez and Robert Aaron Crawford began on 27 June and concluded on Wednesday. The three are charged with the murder of Alrick Ricardo Peddie, who was fatally shot on the afternoon of 24 March, 2010, in West Bay. Justice Karl Harrison heard the matter. 

In this trial, none of the three defendants gave evidence. Their attorneys first argued that there was no case for them to answer because the Crown’s case depended on identification evidence. When that evidence is shown to be inherently weak, slender and wholly unreliable, the case must be withdrawn from the jury, which is the trier of fact. In a judge alone case, he is the trier of law and fact. 

The defence team challenged the evidence of eye witness Michael Conrad Ebanks, who said he knew all three defendants and recognised them when they drove into the yard where he was standing with Mr. Peddie seconds before the shooting (Caymanian Compass, 1 July). 

The challenge was based partly on alleged inconsistencies or lies, and partly on the statement of Andrew Forrest, a relative who reported what he said he overheard Mr. Ebanks telling other family members about the incident. At this stage, Justice Harrison said on Tuesday morning, he could not agree this statement would undermine what Mr. Ebanks had told the court – he had not seen or heard the maker of the statement in order to assess his credibility. 

Overall, he pointed out, his approach to a no case submission should not be to ask himself if he had a reasonable doubt. He should ask – Were there no circumstances in which he could properly convict? Was it not conceivable to convict because the evidence was so weak or discredited? The judge said he preferred the submissions of Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards, he rejected the no case argument and called on each of the defendants for his defence. 

Attorney Timothy Spencer spoke on behalf of Bush and included reliance on Mr. Forrest’s statement. Attorney Orlando Pownall did not call any evidence for Sanchez and Attorney Margeta Facey-Clarke said Crawford relied on the evidence read by Mr. Spencer. 

In her closing speech, Ms Richards said the Crown relied on the principle of joint enterprise. She accepted that the case stood on the correctness of the identification of the defendants as the people who drove into the yard before Mr. Peddie was shot. The eye witness’ credibility was a matter for the judge’s assessment. 

Mr. Spencer addressed the argument of joint enterprise, saying there was no safe evidence of a common purpose. Even if common purpose existed, there was a distinction between common purpose to do something criminal like scaring a person and common purpose to murder. “You have to be sure of the requisite mental element,” Mr. Spencer said. 

All three defence counsels relied on their half-time arguments concerning the identifications by the eye witness. At that stage, the judge did not have to assess the credibility of the eye witness: “Now you do,” Mr. Spencer said. The Crown could have called another family member to bolster what Mr. Ebanks said before going to police or the Crown could have required the defence to call Mr. Forrest so that he could be questioned. 

The Crown’s case against Crawford included DNA found on the driver’s door of the car used when the shooting occurred. Attorney Trevor Burke pointed out that no one could say the date or time when the DNA was deposited. The owner of the car did not know Crawford by name, but it turned out he had seen him around West Bay and, when pressed, agreed it was possible that he had given Crawford a lift. 

Ms Richards was allowed to reply on legal points and she said the reading of a statement is a mode of having it before the court: “It does not amount to a formal admission as to facts.” She said the judge would be entitled to make a proper analysis of Mr. Forrest’s statement and how it should be interpreted in context. 

The defence disagreed. They pointed out that the Crown had allowed the defence to read Mr. Forrest’s evidence uncontradicted. If it was irreconcilable with the evidence of Mr. Ebanks, the eye witness, then it was irreconcilable. 

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