Attempted murder charge reduced to wounding at appeal

Carlney Campbell gets six years instead of 15 for elevator attack

Carlney Campbell had both the offence of attempted murder and a 15-year prison sentence reduced after arguments in the Court of Appeal. 

Court president Sir John Chadwick explained on Friday why the three-judge panel substituted wounding with intent for the attempted murder conviction. He also gave reasons for imposing a sentence of six years instead of the original 15 years. 

The incident leading to charges against Campbell occurred in May 2009 at the Treasure Island where the victim, José Morales, resided at the time. He was waiting for an elevator when he saw a man in police overalls. Mr. Morales entered the elevator and the doors closed. Five seconds later they opened and the man in police overalls entered. He told Mr. Morales to face the wall and started to tie his victim’s hands with plastic string. The attacker took a knife from his pocket and put it to Mr. Morales’ back. When Mr. Morales started to struggle, the attacker said, “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 staggered outside, call 911 and summon help. 

He 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 (Caymanian Compass, 7 October 2011).  


Intent to kill 

The Court of Appeal pointed out that attempted murder requires an intent to kill; without evidence of that intent, the charge of attempted murder should have been withdrawn from the jury. That would have left the second count on the indictment — wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. 

During Campbell’s trial, Mr. Morales first said that his assailant told him “Somebody paid me to kill you.” Cross-examined, he said the words were “Somebody paid me to do it.” There was no explanation of what “it” was. There was no evidence of any reason for tying the victim’s hands behind his back. There was no evidence the knife was intended for anything more than a threat to keep still. The stabbing during the struggle was not evidence of intent to kill, but it was evidence of intent to inflict injury. 

Justice Chadwick noted evidence that Campbell had been with his friend earlier in the day and when the friend saw him again his hand was bleeding. The jurors had that fact plus the licence plate plus the DNA. The verdict made it plain they were satisfied it was Campbell in the elevator, Justice Chadwick said. He and his colleagues — Justices Elliot Mottley and Abdulai Conteh — were satisfied that if the attempted murder charge had been withdrawn, the jury would have convicted on the wounding charge. 


Sentencing hearing 

In the sentencing hearing, Crown Counsel Candia James accepted that the victim’s injuries were serious, but not permanent. Attorney Clyde Allen submitted a precedent case in which the court had upheld a sentence of seven years for a wounding in which the injury could have been fatal if not for immediate expert medical attention. To achieve some consistency with that case, the court set Campbell’s sentence at six years. 

Ms James argued that the police disguise was an aggravating factor, but the court pointed out that Campbell was not charged with impersonating a police officer. 

Justice Alexander Henderson had imposed the 15-year term saying, “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 one mitigating factor was Campbell’s age — 18 at the time of the incident. 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. 

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