Issues raised include apparent bias and witness credibility
Legal counsel for Raziel Jeffers argued last week that his conviction for the murder of Marcus Leon Ebanks was unsafe and should be overturned.
Jeffers, 29, was found guilty earlier this year of shooting Ebanks, 21, in a yard near the Bonaventure Home in West Bay on the evening of 8 July 2009. Justice Charles Quin also found him guilty of attempted murder of other people in the yard and possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Michael Wolkind, instructed by attorney Richard Barton, argued that there was a perception of bias on the part of the judge, who heard the matter without a jury as Jeffers chose.
He pointed out that Justice Quin had previously heard an application for witness anonymity in another case and it included a police assessment that contained dramatic negative material about Jeffers. Justice Quin also presided at a severance hearing when Jeffers was charged along with Jordan Manderson for the murder of Marcos Duran in 2010. Justice Quin made the decision to separate the two cases because Manderson had been in custody more than 12 months and was ready to go to trial, but Jeffers did not yet have an attorney.
Mr. Wolkind noted that, in Manderson’s trial, the Crown alleged that Mr. Duran had been killed in a robbery that went wrong and it was Jeffers who planned the robbery. There was no evidence who planned the robbery and there wasn’t even evidence that it was a robbery, since Mr. Duran’s wallet was found on him, with money in it. But Justice Quin, who was conducting this matter also without a jury, was hearing these allegations.
His second major ground concerned cell phone evidence relating to Megan Martinez, a Crown witness who had been in a relationship with Jeffers and who testified that he confessed the murder to her (Caymanian Compass, 26 January). Mr. Wolkind said if a proper analysis had been done of her cell phone movement on the day of the murder, it would have thrown substantial doubt on her credibility. He said her statement to police implicating Jeffers was given a year after the shooting, after she and Jeffers were no longer together, and it was contradicted by technical evidence showing the movement of her cell phone.
Another argument was that the trial counsel should have explored the health of Adryan Powell, the teen whose injuries from the shooting left him paralysed from the waist down. He identified Jeffers as the person who shot him. Mr. Wolkind indicated that more should have been asked of the doctor who gave a statement about the drugs Adryan was treated with and how they could have affected his memory.
Andrew Radcliffe, who conducted the case for the prosecution in Jeffers’ trial, responded to points raised on behalf of Jeffers. He said the possibility of bias must be real, not fanciful. The test for bias will not be satisfied simply because a judge had some previous involvement with a defendant. The test for bias is based on what an objective informed observer would think: such an observer would appreciate the training of the judge and his ability to determine what is relevant and what is not relevant in his finding of facts.
As to the phone evidence complained about, Mr. Radcliffe said it did not matter because nothing remarkable had happened in the course of the day of the shooting that would have stuck in Ms Martinez’ mind. Whether she went out or stayed home was immaterial because by both accounts she was home when Jeffers told her he was going fishing – a term that meant going to hunt for one’s enemies.
He said at all stages it was clear Justice Quin bore in mind that Ms Martinez had provided inconsistent accounts. In the context of everything he heard and saw, the judge had concluded she was a truthful and reliable witness.
Mr. Radcliffe suggested that Jeffers’ attorneys were focusing on something that was immaterial. “We say it is a superficially attractive point, but fundamentally flawed.”
As to Adryan Powell’s medication, he noted that the doctor had said there was nothing in the medication itself that could have distorted his memory or caused hallucination; it was more likely to make him sleepy.
After submissions concluded on Thursday, court president Sir John Chadwick said he, Justice Elliot Mottley and Justice Abdulai Conteh wanted to take time to consider the matter, but would deliver their decision as soon as they could.
Earlier he remarked, “This appeal is not going to turn on what we think of Megan Martinez. It’s whether the judge had proper opportunity to assess her.”
The court is scheduled to conclude this session on Friday, 3 August.
The test for bias is based on what an objective informed observer would think: such an observer would appreciate the training of the judge and his ability to determine what is relevant.