Firearm from murder scene not operable, expert says

Attorneys for Jose Sanchez make submission of no case to answer

The firearm recovered from the yard where Solomon Webster was fatally shot was not in operable condition when an expert examined it, Justice Charles Quin heard last week. 

Jose Sanchez is accused of possessing that firearm and murdering Mr. Webster on Sept. 7, 2014, in a yard off Miss Daisy Lane in West Bay. 

On Tuesday, defense counsel Mark Heywood began a submission of no case for Sanchez to answer. The first stage of his argument had to do with the firearm – whether it had fired the bullet that penetrated an artery in Mr. Webster’s thigh and whether there was evidence that Sanchez ever had possession of it. 

Firearms expert Allen Greenspan told the court Friday that he had received a Colt Combat Commander semiautomatic pistol on Oct. 3, along with a live round and a spent cartridge recovered from the crime scene. He said the live round was the right caliber to fit the gun; the cartridge had been fired from that gun, but he could not say when. 

He said the gun was not operable when he received it and he had to field strip it to see why. He pointed out that the manual safety device was missing and, without that, the gun would not work at all. Describing the gun as in “extremely poor condition,” he also noted that the recoil guide that sits on top of the gun had been cut or in some way made smaller than it should be. The recoil spring was bent and distorted. The leaf spring was either cut or broken. The pistol grips were not attached to the gun when he received it. 

Justice Quin has already heard that the gun was picked up at the scene about 10 minutes after the shooting. The man who picked it up hid it in bush at the rear of the property until he could talk privately to a lead investigator. That did not occur until Tuesday, Sept. 9. 

Mr. Greenspan answered questions about various ways in which the gun could have become inoperable after the single shot was fired that killed Mr. Webster. 

The other part of Mr. Heywood’s submission was the assertion that there was no evidence Sanchez carried a firearm to the yard that evening. His brother had picked him up in the morning to take him to a birthday celebration aboard a party boat. Sanchez was seen leaving his mother’s residence in the yard at Miss Daisy Lane with nothing in his hands. 

After the birthday party, his brother carried him to the home of Rachelyn Bush, with whom Sanchez had wanted to spend the evening. She had said no and took him back to Miss Daisy Lane. Mr. Heywood said it was farfetched to think that Sanchez could have had a gun with him all day on a party boat with 25 other people with no one seeing anything untoward, and then there was no opportunity to get a gun from anywhere. 

Further, Sanchez had no interest in going to Miss Daisy Lane; when Ms. Bush drove him there, he didn’t want to get out of her car. He was removed from the car when Shaquille Bush came up and started a confrontation that got physical. At that stage, Ms. Bush had seen Sanchez with his shirt over his arm, a phone in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other hand. 

The two men grappled in the driveway and then moved around the side of one of the houses in the yard. After that, Mr. Webster became involved in the struggle, Mr. Heywood pointed out. 

Various witnesses saw the three men struggle, but no one saw the shot fired. 

Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards responded on Wednesday to these submissions, saying there was a case for Sanchez to answer. She said the sole issue was whether Sanchez had the firearm and whether it was capable of discharging a bullet at the time he had it. She said there was both circumstantial and direct evidence that the firearm was functional at the time of the shooting. 

It was in poor condition and had been “cobbled together,” but that gun managed to fire one shot and that was a conclusion a reasonable jury properly instructed could reach, Ms. Richards said. 

Justice Quin, who is sitting as judge and jury as Sanchez elected, indicated he would give his ruling Thursday morning. 

Justice Quin … indicated he would give his ruling Thursday morning.