A good day for justice in Cayman

Friday, July 24, was a good day for justice in this country.

On that day, the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal handed down three decisions upholding the convictions of three violent offenders, ensuring that they remain behind bars and away from the general community.

In addition to the positive consequences in regard to public safety, the determinations by the appellate court – comprising highly experienced and respected adjudicators from the U.K. and the Commonwealth – also serve to demonstrate the validity of Cayman’s criminal justice system, and to confirm the professionalism of its various codependent components, that is, the police, prosecutors, judges and juries.

Consider the individuals from whom our authorities are keeping the rest of us safe:

Chad Anglin, age 35, was tried in front of a jury and found guilty in May 2014 of the murder of Swiss banker Frederic Bise in February 2008. Mr. Bise’s body was found in the back of his burning car outside his home in Mount Pleasant, West Bay. In this instance, Anglin had been arrested and questioned days after the murder occurred, but was released because of lack of evidence. In 2013, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s “cold case unit” reopened the investigation and subsequently charged him. After the Court of Appeal’s upholding of his conviction, Anglin, a serial offender who had been arrested 43 times before his initial arrest for Mr. Bise’s murder, remains in prison.

Raziel Jeffers, age 32, was tried by jury and found guilty in April 2014 of the murder of Damion Ming in West Bay in March 2010. Mr. Ming was shot dead in a yard off Birch Tree Hill Road, where he was working on a boat with several other men. Jeffers has also been found guilty of murdering Marcus Leon Ebanks in July 2009 in West Bay, and additionally was found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Marcos Mauricio Duran in West Bay in March 2010 (a mere two weeks before Mr. Ming’s murder). In regard to the appeal of his conviction for Mr. Ming’s murder, the Court of Appeal described Grand Court Justice Malcolm Swift’s summing up of the evidence in the complex case as “skillful,” saying, “Clarity of exposition on the part of a judge in a criminal case is a hallmark of a proper summing up.”

Jeffrey Barnes, age 34, was found guilty by a jury in April 2013 for raping a woman in her home at knife point on Oct. 20, 2011. He has also been convicted of another rape, as well as abduction and attempted rape, that occurred Oct. 29, 2011.

In September 2013, Justice Charles Quin sentenced Barnes to life imprisonment for the Oct. 20 offenses. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Barnes’s rape conviction, wherein his attorneys argued that pre-trial publicity was so prejudicial that Barnes could not have received a fair trial. However, Barnes’s lawyers have indicated they will argue a separate appeal, of the life sentence, claiming it is an “inhuman punishment” and contrary to Cayman’s Bill of Rights.

Anglin, Jeffers and Barnes still have legal avenues for possible appeal remaining, if not in Cayman, then to the U.K. Privy Council. That is their right, just as it is their lawyers’ responsibility to represent their clients to the utmost of their ability.

Let us be clear, Cayman’s defense attorneys are every bit as vital to the workings of justice in Cayman as police, prosecutors and judges. They, too, are among “the good guys.” A defense attorney not only works to get his client “off the hook,” but also – particularly through the appeals process – tests the soundness of Cayman’s justice system through pointed and probing legal arguments.

In the above instances, Cayman’s appellate court found our system to have been sound, and that should help the people of Cayman rest a little easier at night.