Judge can’t order Facebook silence

Counsel in Devon Anglin murder trial express concern

After hearing concerns of both prosecution and defence attorneys in the trial of Devon Anglin on a charge of murder, Justice Howard Cooke issued a statement Monday regarding Facebook messages. 

“I can’t make an order preventing Facebook or for the persons who contribute to Facebook to be silent about the case,” the judge said. He suggested that if Crown prosecutor Andrew Radcliffe and defence counsel John Ryder wanted to agree on a joint news release, he would issue it. 

Anglin is charged with fatally shooting Jeremiah Barnes at the Hell service station on 15 February, 2010. Jeremiah, 4, was with an older brother in the back seat of a car driven by his father, Andy Barnes, while his mother was in the front passenger seat. 

Monday’s proceedings began with Mr. Radcliffe telling Justice Cooke about comments posted on Facebook concerning the trial. He noted the case was an emotional one and postings about it were unhelpful, inflammatory and potentially an offence.  

“Well, my first reaction is – I don’t watch Facebook,” the judge said. His second reaction was that he is hearing the matter without a jury. Facebook would be totally irrelevant to his adjudication, he said. 

He questioned what law would apply and was directed to a section of Cayman’s Penal Code that deals with offences relating to judicial proceedings. One such offence is making use of any speech or writing misrepresenting a judicial proceeding or capable of prejudicing any person in favour of or against any parties involved in the proceeding. 

“How does posting on Facebook contravene this section?” Justice Cooke asked. 

Mr. Radcliffe indicated that both the Crown and defence had anxieties about the matter.  

There was a brief discussion, after which the attorneys handed up a statement, which the judge read over before placing it on the record. 

He said, “It has been brought to my attention by the Crown that certain comments concerning the trial have been posted on Facebook, the social networking site. 

“I have not seen them and I do not read Facebook,” he said. “They will not affect my considerations of the evidence in any way. However, it is clear that, at a time when evidence is still being called in this case, no comments must be made that might be thought capable of prejudicing any person in favour of or against any of the parties to the proceedings. 

“I should make it clear that these comments are not directed towards the press or media, nor are they intended to compromise the proper reporting of matters in court by them.” 

Prior to the Facebook concern being raised, five civilian witnesses had given their evidence. Afterwards, there were two who gave their evidence in person and one whose statement was read. 

Jeremiah’s parents, Andy and Dorlisa Barnes, were among the witnesses the court heard early last week (Caymanian Compass, 17-19 August.) 

Another witness was Maria Anglin, who told the court she is married to Devon’s cousin, Beto. She said on the night of 15 February, 2010, when she got home from shopping around 9pm, Devon was taking a shower. Afterwards, he borrowed a shirt from her husband. She said there was nothing unusual about him taking a shower there, nor was there anything unusual about him borrowing Beto’s clothes. 

Two school girls, whose names will not be reported because of their ages, gave evidence about seeing Devon Anglin in a car. 

On Monday, 22 August, Monique Antoinette Yates gave evidence about an incident that occurred on 30 January, 2010, at Batabano Plaza involving Devon Anglin and Andy Barnes. 

Carlos Rene Ebanks told the court he was working as pump attendant at the Hell service station on the night of 15 February, 2010. He described Mr. Barnes driving in, parking and getting gas. While he was attending a car that faced Mr. Barnes’ vehicle, he saw a figure approach the station. The person was wearing a Halloween mask, he said, and at first he thought it was a prank. He did not see any part of the person’s face, nor did he see the person fiddle with the mask. 

Mr. Ebanks said he saw the person walk past the main entrance to the retail section of the station, draw what appeared to be a gun and immediately open fire on Andy’s car. He said there were at least two shots and then another after the car swiftly moved out of the station. 

The person with the gun turned around and ran toward the back of the station.  

Before the shooting, Mr. Ebanks said he had noticed a vehicle come into the station through the exit, which was not unusual, and go towards the rear of the station. Seconds after the shooting, there was one car that left very rapidly through the entrance. 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I agree Cayman has one of the highest % of Facebook users in the world. Sad to say, I have read a lot of the comments made by our people and I am so disappointed that they are not using this social network to build social and economic strength, way too much stupid local gossip and a lot of B.S. very few people interested in carrying on an intelligent conversation. This is a great opportunity for Caymanians to build good relationships and unite with each other instead there’s a lot of cut throat and idleness at work. People’s minds are in the sand, and its a very pitiful situation. I expect people of high intelligence to do better and act more responsible with the opportunities given them to improve themselves and others.Right now this great opportunity to connect intellectually on the social networks is being wasted.

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