‘Appearance of bias’ argument fails
Leonard Antonio Ebanks, found guilty last year of fatally shooting Tyrone Burrell in September 2010, learned Monday that his appeal against conviction for murder was dismissed and his conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.
Ebanks had his first ground of appeal heard in July, when the court heard arguments on the ground of apparent bias on the part of the judge, who heard the matter without a jury as Ebanks chose.
In the same session, attorneys for Raziel Jeffers also argued “appearance of bias” in his appeal against conviction for murder.
In both matters, it was argued that Justice Charles Quin should not have sat to hear the trial because the circumstances gave rise to an appearance of bias by reason of material that had been before him in a witness anonymity application he had dealt with previously.
The court reserved its decision until Monday, when president Sir John Chadwick announced that the three judges had concluded that this ground should be dismissed. He did not give reasons at this time, but said a draft judgment would be provided to the attorneys and Crown Counsel so they could consider whether there was material in the judgment that was of a confidential nature. If there is, he indicated, attorneys could suggest how the material might be redacted or anonymised before the judgment is made public.
With this ground dealt with, Ebanks’ attorneys were invited to continue their application to appeal on other grounds. Alastair Malcom QC, instructed by attorney Clyde Allen, used words like impossible and inconceivable when describing the evidence of the woman who said Ebanks had confessed to her that he shot “the boy”. [Tyrone was 20; Ebanks was 41.]
He pointed out that this witness told the court she had dreams. He suggested she may have believed what she was saying, if she was someone who brooded on things, since this was the second person killed at the property in a matter of months.
Mr. Malcolm noted inconsistencies in her evidence and contradictions between her evidence and that of a neighbour who said she saw Ebanks seconds after hearing a sound like a firecracker or gunshot.
Justice Quin in his judgment had said he found both women to be honest and reliable. He agreed there were inconsistencies in both women’s evidence when compared with what they had told police, but he could not find that any of these issues were serious or central to the prosecution’s case.
In response to Mr. Malcolm, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Trevor Ward noted other evidence Justice Quin could draw on in deciding whether the confession was true. He pointed out that the judgment included the judge’s reminder to himself about the duties of a judge sitting without a jury, and then how those duties were carried out. He reminded the court that Justice Quin had the advantage of seeing the witnesses and assessing their demeanour, as well as the substance of their evidence.
Justices Chadwick, Elliott Mottley and Sir Anthony Campbell adjourned briefly to consider their decision. On return, the president said they were satisfied the grounds argued that morning had no prospect of success and so they refused the application to argue those grounds.
Having refused permission, and having already dismissed the first ground of appearance of bias, the court dismissed the appeal as a whole and affirmed Justice Quin’s judgment.