Jury deliberates on Bush verdict

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The jury in the trial of former Premier McKeeva Bush will resume its deliberations at 10 a.m. Thursday after failing to reach a verdict on Wednesday. 

There were tense scenes at the packed court house as throngs of supporters of Mr. Bush and other interested observers gathered in anticipation of a verdict. 

Just after 4 p.m., some three hours after he had sent the jury out, Justice Michael Mettyear called them back to the court and sent the four women and three men home for the night. 

Earlier, the judge had recapped the evidence and issued his legal directions, telling the jurors it would be no defense against the charges to say the investigation was politically motivated. 

He told them Governor Duncan Taylor’s emails to the foreign office may have fallen short of the “restraint, detachment and independence” expected of his office. But he said the emails and the suggestion of a conspiracy had little bearing on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. 

If they felt that Mr. Bush was guilty of the offenses alleged, he said, the motivation of the governor was not directly relevant. 

He said there was no suggestion that any evidence had been fabricated. 

“Any criticism of the former governor that you find justified has limited relevance. It doesn’t go directly to the route to verdict,” he told the jurors. 

He said it was possible to see some of the governor’s comments in a less negative way – if the jury believed, as Deputy Governor Franz Manderson had suggested, that Mr. Taylor’s animosity towards the defendant was not political. “If you think the former governor believed, rightly or wrongly, that the defendant was corrupt and his actions were to the detriment of the Cayman Islands, you may view his apparent enthusiasm to have Mr. Bush charged and his celebratory attitude … in a different light.” 

He said if the governor’s motivations were political, then his actions would be “reprehensible,” though still not directly relevant to the charges. 

Justice Mettyear also told the jury to resist judging Mr. Bush for his gambling and to stick to the evidence in relation to the specific charges. 

“It may be that you are, at the very least, surprised by his conduct, that would be the same of any premier traveling abroad on business, you wouldn’t expect him to spend hours and hours on slot machines. Surprise may be one emotion you feel, you might be disappointed, or even saddened by his conduct … particularly if you don’t approve of gambling. None of those feelings would justify you convicting him.” 

He said the jury should consider each of the 11 charges – six for misconduct in a public office contrary to Common Law and five of breach of trust by a member of the Legislative Assembly contrary to the Anti-Corruption Law. 

The judge said the reason for the difference in the charges was that the anti-corruption law had come into force midway through the period covered by the indictment. 

“What the Crown has to prove is exactly the same,” he added. 

For the jury to return guilty verdicts, he said, the Crown would have to prove that Mr. Bush had acted dishonestly when he withdrew cash on his government card in the casinos. He said a breach of trust offense would concern “a serious breach of duty owed directly to the general public, it must involve the accused seriously abusing some power, duty or responsibility vested in him and exercisable in the public interest.” 

He added, “It can only be brought against a person who has been given powers, duties or responsibilities to exercise for the benefit of the general public. The duty that the Crown alleges in this case was a duty not to use his Cayman Islands government credit card for his own benefit or possible enrichment, but to use it for the benefit of the Cayman Islands.” 

Justice Mettyear said the jury had to be satisfied that Mr. Bush did have the duty claimed by the Crown, that he had misconducted himself by breaching it, and that the misconduct was so serious, it amounted to a breach of the public trust. 

“The defense case is that Mr. Bush believed and was led to believe by senior civil servants that, as far as Cayman Islands credit cards were concerned, the only rule was that, as long as you paid it back, personal purchases and withdrawals were allowed and it would be unfair and wrong to impose any other duty than that. 

“They suggest that what the money was used for was a private matter and should have no effect on the existence of the duty imposed.” 

He said the Crown suggested that the fact that the money had been used to gamble was relevant because using the card for that purpose “must be wrong,” and Mr. Bush should not have needed a policy to know this. 

He said the jury should be careful about reading too much into the evidence that others had used their government credit cards for personal purposes. He said no evidence had been submitted as to the prevalence of this behavior, the amounts involved, or the reasons. Some personal use may not reach the threshold for a serious breach of trust or may not be a breach at all, he said, citing a hypothetical example of someone using their government card to fund urgent medical expenses while abroad and paying it back later. 

The judge said there was no evidence that anyone else had been accused of making cash withdrawals on their government card, making Mr. Bush’s case slightly different from others mentioned during the case. 

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A smiling McKeeva Bush enters court on Wednesday. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

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