Asher McGaw, 21, was shot and killed last September
Chakane Jameile Scott was found guilty of murder and sentenced to imprisonment for life Tuesday.
Referred to throughout his trial as CJ, Scott observed his 19th birthday last Thursday, 7 June.
Scott chose to be tried by judge alone and Justice Alexander Henderson took over one hour and 40 minutes to explain why he found the defendant guilty of murdering Asher William McGaw in the early hours of 22 September 2011.
Asher, 21, and Scott had been friends and they were together that night in the company of Antascio Rankine, who was 17 at the time. Mr. Rankine gave evidence that Mr. McGaw was his best friend and he saw Scott shoot him, but couldn’t understand why.
Justice Henderson noted that neither the Crown nor Rankine was able to suggest a motive. He said it is a commonplace that the Crown is not required to prove motive. But lack of evidence as to motive is always a factor to be taken into account when weighing the evidence. “Of course, lack of evidence of motive must be distinguished from a proven absence of motive,” he pointed out.
In this case, he said, the state of the evidence represented lack of evidence of motive, not absence of motive.
Justice Henderson said several times throughout the trial, which began on 28 May, that there was just one essential element — was Mr. Rankine telling the truth? “If I am sure he is, I should convict. If I am not sure, I must acquit,” he summarised.
From the details with which Rankine described the shooting, the judge was sure Mr. Rankine was present and knew who did it. “Is he lying when he says CJ is the culprit?” he asked. It would be dangerous to convict Scott based solely on the unsupported evidence of Mr. Rankine, he said.
He acknowledged minor inconsistencies in the Crown’s case and said some of the witnesses contradicted each other in details. But it was of little assistance to the defendant to show Mr. Rankine was mistaken.
The judge found the evidence of Earl Hart to be reliable and independent. Mr. Hart and Scott were related and Mr. Hart had allowed Scott to sleep in his house, leaving the door open for him and trusting him to lock it when he would come in, the judge noted.
Mr. Hart’s description of what Scott was wearing before the shooting tallied with what Mr. Rankine had described. But when Mr. Hart saw him shortly after the shooting, Scott was wearing slippers and jeans that were too tight and didn’t fit.
Mr. McGaw had been found in the vicinity of the district clinic around 3am by police on patrol. There were a lot of people around after that. In his evidence, Mr. Hart said he saw Scott about 9am on a bus heading west. Scott told him, “I going down because up here is too hot.”
A few days later, Mr. Hart said, he heard Scott tell Mr. Rankine “Just hold your mouth” or something like that.
Justice Henderson said he considered the change of clothing suspicious. The remark about East End being too hot, referring to police activity, he also considered to have a suspicious connotation.
“Mr. Hart impressed me as a truthful witness. He has no apparent reason to lie,” the judge said. He was satisfied Mr. Hart had heard Scott warn Mr.Rankine.
On the basis of Mr.Rankine’s evidence and evidence that supported it, there was a case for Scott to answer. But Scott gave a no comment interview to police and elected not to give evidence or call evidence at his trial.
“I am permitted to draw a reasonable inference from the defendant’s silence,” Justice Henderson said, noting that the Crown’s case demanded an answer. If there were innocent explanations, Scott was the person to say so. But he did not.
As Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Trevor Ward had argued, if the only sensible answer is that he had no explanation or none that would stand up to cross-examination, it would be open to the jury to hold against him his failure to give evidence.
Since Scott chose a non-jury trial, Justice Henderson was judge of fact as well as of law.