Devon Anglin trial: Experts give evidence on gunshot residue

Gunshot residue was found on the clothing of Devon Anglin, accused of killing 4-year-old Jeremiah Barnes, a court heard this week.

However, the presence of gunshot residue on a person’s clothing or in a car can be explained in various ways, including innocent contamination, according to forensic experts testifying at the murder trial.

Anglin chose trial by judge alone after pleading not guilty to the murder of Jeremiah on Feb. 15, 2010; the attempted murder of the boy’s father, Andy Barnes; and possession of an unlicensed firearm. After his acquittal in 2011, the Court of Appeal overturned that verdict on a point of law and ordered a retrial.

Justice Charles Quin heard on Monday from two scientists via video link with the U.K.

Christopher Moynehan was called by Crown prosecutors Andrew Radcliffe and Elisabeth Lees. Angela Shaw, called by the defense team of David Fisher and Lucy Organ, was present with Mr. Moynehan. She spoke occasionally to confirm or elaborate on what he said. Gunshot residue, which is invisible to the naked eye, can be deposited on the skin and clothing of the person who fires the gun, and can be deposited on people and surfaces near the gun when it is fired, typically within 3 meters, depending on the firearm, Mr. Moynehan said. It can also be transferred, like dust, when there is contact between a surface with the residue and another surface that previously did not have it.

Mr. Moynehan said he would not expect to find gunshot residue on a person picked at random.

One to three particles of residue would be considered a low amount; four to 12 particles would be a moderate amount; 13 to 49 particles would be high and 50 or more would be very high.

Clothing taken from Anglin the night of the shooting had a total of six particles of gunshot residue on it. There were three particles on his jeans – one on the front, one inside the waistband and one inside the front left pocket. There was one particle of residue on his belt, and one particle on each of his shoes.

Mr. Moynehan said his view was that clothing must be looked at in total, not one item in isolation.

There was no residue on Anglin’s shirt, or the boxer shorts and briefs that were taken from him 18 hours later than other items. The passage of time meant there was more opportunity for particles to be disturbed and lost, but Mr. Moynehan pointed out that underwear is generally less exposed than outer clothing.

The court has already heard that Anglin took a shower before he was arrested and borrowed a shirt from his cousin.

Mr. Moynehan said he could not exclude the possibility that gunshot residue may have been transferred to Anglin’s clothing when he was arrested and handcuffed by armed officers, even though none of the officers had fired a gun within two months. It was possible that officers in the armed unit might still have residue on their holsters, uniforms, handcuffs and inside their vehicles.

Police officers have given evidence that a regular patrol car was called to transport Anglin from West Bay to the police station in George Town; armed officers are not allowed to transport suspects.

Mr. Fisher asked about the “Gaule Report” – a 2012 survey of the presence of gunshot residue at the George Town Police Station. Mr. Moynehan read from a summary which stated that residue was found outside one of the cells, on the counter of the custody suite, on the clothing and weapon of an armed officer and the belt of another officer, among other places.

Mr. Moynehan agreed that “You can never exclude innocent contamination. You can give an opinion based on other circumstances.” Further, he agreed that it is a matter of common sense how much weight to give to a finding of gunshot residue.

The court also heard about the presence of residue in a vehicle allegedly driven by Anglin the night of the shooting.

Mr. Radcliffe was expected to close the case for the prosecution on Wednesday.

Mr. Moynehan said the opportunity for contamination is always something that has to be considered.