Police disguise was an aggravating factor
Carlney Rashad Campbell, 20, was sentenced last Friday to 15 years imprisonment for an attempted murder that occurred in May 2009.
A Grand Court jury found Campbell guilty weeks ago, but sentencing was delayed for a social inquiry report to be obtained (Caymanian Compass, 25 August).
The incident leading to the charge occurred at the Treasure Island where the victim, José Morales, resided at the time. He was attacked in an elevator by a man portraying himself as a police officer.
In reviewing the evidence before passing sentence, Justice Alexander Henderson noted Mr. Morales’ evidence the attacker wore blue overalls with the word “POLICE” above his shirt pocket and a Cayman Islands logo. He also wore a black belt, black boots and gloves so as to look like a local police officer. When the man had initially walked past Mr. Morales, the letters “POLICE” were on the back of the overalls.
The judge said wearing such a disguise was clearly an aggravating factor because Campbell had done so for the express purpose of portraying himself as somebody to be trusted. “This was so that he could attack his victim while his victim was off guard,” he said.
The attacker pulled a knife and Mr. Morales struggled with him, at one point holding the man’s hand against his throat. The man told him, “I’m sorry, man. Somebody paid me to do it.” Mr. Morales asked who had paid, but did not get an answer. He was bitten, which prompted him to let go of the attacker’s hand, and then he was stabbed on the right side of his head and again around his left ear. The man eventually fled after dropping the knife. Although he lost a large amount of blood, Mr. Morales managed to stagger outside, call 911 and summon help.
Justice Henderson said the facts of the attack were uncontradicted by any evidence. The issue was solely identification of the attacker.
The case for the prosecution, as presented by Senior Crown Counsel John Masters, included evidence that Mr. Morales saw a vehicle leaving the scene and managed to get the licence plate number. One of the digits turned out to be incorrect, but police succeeded in tracking the vehicle down. It belonged to a friend of Campbell’s. The friend said Campbell had put a pair of overalls into a barrel used to burn rubbish.
There was also DNA recovered from the bite mark on Mr. Morales’ arm. A comparison with Campbell’s DNA profile did not exclude him.
At the sentencing hearing, defence attorney Nicola Moore asked the judge to consider Campbell’s age at the time of the incident – 18 – as well as his family background as detailed in the social inquiry report.
Justice Henderson referred to some details publicly, noting a lack of parenting and Campbell’s status as “an alumnus of the Alternative Education Programme after being expelled from John Gray High School.” He had been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for burglary and handling stolen goods. The report indicated Campbell presented a high risk of re-offending.
The judge also considered a victim impact statement from Mr. Morales, who swore under oath he had no idea why he had been attacked. “The presumption is that it was a case of mistaken identity,” the judge said.
He agreed Campbell’s age was a mitigating factor. However, he added, “I consider the impersonation of a police officer in the course of a paid attempt to kill someone to be an aggravating factor. There was also a high degree of planning involved in this offence.”
The maximum sentence for attempted murder is imprisonment for life. UK guidelines indicate a range of 12 to 20 years.
After imposing the term of 15 years, Justice Henderson said, “There has been a lot of criticism expressed in the press of police investigations and evidence gathering. In this case, the police did an admirable job of gathering the evidence and putting the case together. I think it is appropriate for the court to recognise that.”