Seven years, nine months for wounding with intent to cause serious bodily harm
Justice Malcolm Swift may have broken new ground in Cayman on Thursday, when he gave a convicted man credit for time served on curfew while awaiting trial before sentencing him to prison for stabbing someone outside a George Town bar last year.
A Grand Court jury found Justin D’Angelo Ramoon, 21, not guilty of attempted murder, but guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Andrew Lopez, 20. The charges arose from an incident in the parking lot of Archie’s Bar on Shedden Road on 24 August, 2012.
Ramoon was taken into custody shortly after the incident, pleaded not guilty, and stood trial in January this year. That trial had to be discontinued, however, and a new trial date set.
Last Thursday, following the conclusion of a second trial, Justice Swift sentenced Ramoon to seven years, nine months imprisonment, adding that the 159 days on bail with a curfew was effectively 80 days credit. Ramoon’s sentence would have been eight years, the judge said.
In passing sentence, Justice Swift said he agreed with crown prosecutor Toyin Salako as to the aggravating features of the offence: an unprovoked, sustained attack with a sharp object in a public place, with serious injuries as a consequence. The judge said he also took into account Ramoon’s previous convictions.
The judge told Ramoon, who did not testify during trial, that he agreed entirely with the jury’s verdict.
Defence counsel Ben Tonner advised the court of Ramoon’s intention to appeal.
Mr. Tonner had told Justice Swift that Ramoon was granted bail on 8 February with strict conditions, including a curfew from 8pm to 6am.
The judge noted that a curfew is a restriction of liberty. He indicated that in the UK, “half time” credit is given for periods on curfew.
It is standard for a convicted person to get time in custody awaiting trial deducted from their sentence, but Mr. Tonner cited a lack of legislation that would provide for credit to be given for periods spent on curfew awaiting trial.
Mr. Tonner suggested the judge build the reduction into the sentence.
In his directions to the jury the previous day, Justice Swift told them there was no independent supporting evidence for the account given by the stabbing victim; it was for the jurors to decide if that account was accurate. The defence had not accused him of lying, but suggested he might be mistaken because of factors like lighting and the speed with which the incident occurred.
Mr. Lopez said he was stabbed twice in the back, four times in his arm and twice to the front. He called theses last two “nicks”. The defence noted that these were not on the medical report. Injuries on the report included a collapsed lung.
Mr. Lopez said there were people in the parking lot playing dominoes. Nearby was a person from whom he had just received a cigarette. None of these people gave evidence. The judge said jurors should not speculate about why they were not called as witnesses by either side, or what they might have said.
The judge also pointed out that jurors had to be sure of an intent to kill, and be sure the defendant was the person wielding the knife or sharp instrument. They could infer intent from the evidence.
Mr. Lopez had told the court that, after he felt the first stab on the left side of his back, he turned and saw Ramoon, whom he had known for several years. As Ramoon kept stabbing him, he tried to get away but slipped on a piece of concrete. He broke his fall by putting out his hand and he saw Ramoon run off.
In summarising this evidence for the jury, Justice Swift asked if the attacker pressed home his advantage. If not, did he run because he did what he intended to do or because he wanted to get away?
Mr. Lopez related two incidents that had occurred the week before he was stabbed.
He said he took a scooter away from Ramoon’s cousins because they had stolen it and were riding around the neighbourhood. The next night he saw Ramoon at an outdoor food stand. He said Ramoon spoke to him and started hitching his clothes as if he had a gun in his waist and was going to pull it out.
Mr. Lopez said he called Ramoon a rude name and said, “If you pull that out you better use it.” He said Ramoon’s cousin told his friends, “Pull that boy away from here before we kill him.”
When he was stabbed, he said, Ramoon used the same rude name to him and asked, “Where all your mouth is now?”
Justice Swift instructed jurors they could not convict Ramoon unless they were sure the recognition of him by Mr. Lopez was accurate. An honest and impressive witness can be mistaken, he warned.
The judge also referred to Ramoon’s interview with police. He denied being at Archie’s Bar. He said he had been at home with his girlfriend and they had gone for a drive to North Side and East End and then back home to George Town. He did not give evidence under oath, so his account was not tested under cross-examination.