Officer was 6 feet, 250 pounds; complainant was 5 feet, 8 inches and weighed 130 pounds
A Grand Court jury found Rabe Welcome guilty on Thursday of unlawfully and maliciously wounding Adolphus Myrie at the On the Run Service Station in Red Bay during the early hours of 17 June, 2009. Welcome, a police officer for two years, was off-duty at the time and two other off-duty police officers he had spent the evening with were also at the premises.
The defendant and Mr. Myrie did not know each other. The jury saw a CCTV video of an incident inside the station store and video from another camera, which focused on a well-lit area outside near a dumpster. That camera showed the physical action resulting in the charge. It was clear from the indoor camera that Mr. Myrie was wearing a long white T-shirt, while Welcome was dressed all in black: the contrast made it easy for viewers to determine who was who in the outdoor video.
Justice Alexander Henderson instructed the three men and four women on the jury that wounding means a person’s skin was broken. A doctor’s evidence confirmed that Mr. Myrie’s injuries included a laceration to the chin that required stitches, another laceration to the head, bruises and a broken arm.
Both men gave evidence. Mr. Myrie described himself as 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing 130 pounds. Welcome told the court he is 6 feet, 250 pounds.
Mr. Myrie said Welcome threw him down and then pounded his head on the ground and he lost consciousness.
Welcome said he did not know how Mr. Myrie received his injuries, but presumed his head contacted the concrete. He said he was trying to grab Mr. Myrie’s wrists, but Mr. Myrie was fighting. Questioned by Crown Counsel Kenneth Ferguson, he said he did not kick Mr. Myrie; he was simply trying to free his foot. Justice Henderson suggested that jurors look again at the video when they retired to deliberate.
The incident started after Welcome went to On the Run for some food. He said he had gone earlier to Country and Western Bar, where he played pool and had three drinks of Hennessy cognac and three Red Bulls. Apparently, while he was inside waiting for his order, Mr. Myrie and Shani Gordon arrived. Ms Gordon went inside to make a purchase and Welcome said something to her.
When Ms Gordon went back to Mr. Myrie’s car, he asked her to go back and buy a lighter. She said she felt uncomfortable going back in because of what had been said to her. Mr. Myrie then went in and spoke to Welcome about the disrespect he had allegedly given. He admitted using profanities, but denied making threats. Justice Henderson advised jurors to look carefully at that video, in which Mr. Myrie is seen gesticulating and Ms Gordon is seen pulling him away.
They then went outside. The camera in this area was not functioning, the judge noted, so there was a gap in what could be seen.
Mr. Myrie said he and Ms Gordon were in the car, but two men stood behind it to block him from leaving. Welcome came to his window and said he needed to search the car. Mr. Myrie said he did not know the men were police and he asked Welcome for his badge. Welcome had his hands on the car and when Mr. Myrie opened the door, he said, Welcome stumbled backward.
Mr. Myrie admitted taking a machete from the back of the car and waving it, telling the three men to back off. He said Welcome “hugged me up and pulled me to the back of the station.”
Asked about the machete, Mr. Myrie said Ms Gordon took it from him. Ms Gordon said she got the machete from him and put it in the car. Welcome said he managed to get the machete from Mr. Myrie in their struggle, but was not sure what happened to it; he thought Ms Gordon might have picked it up from the ground. Defence witness Adrian Clarke said the lady put the machete in the car and another officer took it.
Justice Henderson told the jury Mr. Myrie was committing two arrestable offences, carrying an offensive weapon and threatening violence. As a matter of law, Welcome was entitled to arrest him. The question was – was that his intention? As to the degree of force Welcome used, jurors had to consider the question in light of the circumstances Welcome honestly believed he was facing at the time. It would have been difficult to work out exactly how much force was needed. Was it reasonable? Or was it all out of proportion?
The judge pointed out that Mr. Myrie agreed he had previous convictions, including threatening violence, assault and obstructing. He warned jurors to be cautious about accepting any part of Mr. Myrie’s evidence not supported by other evidence. He also noted that Welcome was a man of good character, not just because he had no convictions and no disciplinary actions against him, but from what two character witnesses said about him.
After the unanimous jury verdict, Justice Henderson adjourned sentencing until 3 August. He noted that wounding can attract a wide range of sentences. His understanding was that judges can make findings of fact, but they could not be seen to be contrary to the jury’s verdict. He also noted that Cayman does not have “special verdicts” as an option.
Mr. Ferguson and defence attorney Ben Tonner later explained that “special verdict” means the jury could be asked for the basis of their verdict.
In this case, given the law as explained by Justice Henderson in his instructions to jurors, they could have rejected self-defence, or they could have found that force used in self-defence was excessive, or they could have found that Welcome was attempting to effect an arrest but used force beyond what was reasonable.
Welcome remains on bail pending sentence. The 3 August date was fixed after Mr. Tonner asked the court to request a social inquiry report.