Court hears WestStar robbery appeal

Defense says informant’s evidence was inconsistent and contradicted

Attorneys for David Tamasa and Andre Burton began arguing in the Court of Appeal this week against the men’s convictions for the robbery of WestStar Television Centre in May 2012. 

Each was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment after Justice Alastair Malcolm found that they were two of the three people who entered the business and stole $8,269.35, carrying imitation firearms and using force or fear of force against staff and customers.  

The Crown’s main witness in the trial was Marlon Dillon, who was sentenced last week to three years’ imprisonment for his roles in the WestStar robbery and the Cayman National Bank robbery in June 2012. Dillon was given credit for his guilty pleas and evidence against the accused in both trials. 

Tamasa’s counsel, James Curtis, submitted that Dillon’s evidence was inconsistent and contradicted by other evidence. 

He said Dillon had been pressured to give information, and the police officer who interviewed him used tactics that were contrary to the Judges Rules, which are guidelines for questioning suspects. For example, when the officer told Dillon he had a chance to cooperate, she noted that he had a son aged two. She told him, “If you go to jail, I don’t believe you’ll see him till he’s a grown man.”  

Mr. Curtis suggested that rather than name the real robbers, Dillon gave police the names of people he would be at less risk from. He pointed out that Dillon also gave police names of people who were not prosecuted; in fact, one was called as a Crown witness. Another man was indicted, but the Crown did not proceed against him.  

Mr. Curtis said Dillon changed his stories when they didn’t fit other evidence police were gathering. 

One example came from government CCTV, which showed Dillon’s burgundy Chevy Equinox at a location where he said he had not been. After Dillon was shown the CCTV, he built another story and said the police had made up his first account.  

Mr. Curtis spent much of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning on cellphone evidence. It was agreed that cellphone masts around the island provide information about who rings who, or sends a text and at what time. The location of the mast picking up the signals gives an approximate location of where the cellphone is at the time.  

Records show which phones are used, not the people using the phones. In this case, Mr. Curtis indicated, the prosecution was proceeding on the basis that the phones and their owners were together. He argued that Justice Malcolm’s analysis of phone evidence had caused the acquittal of one defendant – George Mignott – because phone evidence had shown he was not where Dillon said he was. 

Mr. Curtis argued that the same analysis of times and places applied to Tamasa because phone records showed he was not where Dillon said he was. 

Burton’s attorneys, Anthony Akiwumi and Margeta Facey-Clarke, had not yet spoken by lunchtime Wednesday. 

The Department of Public Prosecutions, which responds to the appeals, is represented by Simon Dennis and Tricia Hutchinson. 

The same counsel are scheduled to be involved next week when Tamasa and Burton appeal their convictions for the Cayman National Bank robbery. Also appealing next week are Rennie Cole, represented by Prathna Bodden and Ben Tonner; George Mignott, represented by Nick Hoffman; and Ryan Edwards, represented by Keva Reid. 

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