Devon Jermaine Anglin has been found not guilty of murdering Jeremiah Barnes on Feb. 10, 2010, when the 4-year-old was fatally shot while seated behind his father in the family car at the Hell Gas Station in West Bay.
Justice Charles Quin took more than two hours Tuesday to read his judgment, setting out the reasons for his conclusion that the evidence did not prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Anglin was guilty of any of the counts on the indictment.
He had been charged with the murder of Jeremiah; the attempted murder of the boy’s father, Andy Barnes; and possession of an unlicensed firearm. It was accepted by both prosecution and defense counsel that Mr. Barnes was the intended target.
Justice Quin concluded with this observation: “The parents and family of Jeremiah Barnes have endured untold and unimaginable anguish, suffering and grief because of the untimely and tragic death of this young 4-year-old boy. I do recognize that they, and many others throughout these islands, will be deeply disappointed that Jeremiah’s killer has not yet been brought to justice.
“However, the rule of law and the memory of young Jeremiah would be ill-served by this court if it failed to observe and apply the high standards of burden and standard of proof which are demanded of the courts of the Cayman Islands,” he said.
Court then adjourned. Anglin, who will be 30 years old on Friday, had a few moments with his mother before he went back down the stairs into the holding cells. They touched hands and spoke quietly. There were few people in the gallery. After his mother kissed him, Anglin went back into custody.
He is serving a sentence of life imprisonment for the September 2009 murder of Carlo Webster, for which he was convicted in January 2012 after trial by judge alone, which Anglin appealed unsuccessfully. The verdict of Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in that case was upheld by the Court of Appeal in December 2012.
According to the Conditional Release Law passed last year, a sentence of life imprisonment for murder shall be 30 years incarceration (unless the sentencing judge decides otherwise) before the prisoner can be considered for conditional release on license.
Anglin was tried previously for Jeremiah’s murder; after trial by judge alone in August 2011, he was found not guilty. The Crown appealed and the Court of Appeal set aside the acquittal, citing an error in law by the judge. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial, not reaching any conclusions as to Anglin’s guilt or innocence.
The retrial took place in November and December 2015. In delivering his verdict, Justice Quin said he had to remind himself of the special need for caution when considering eyewitness identification evidence.
He noted that as defense counsel David Fisher and Lucy Organ had pointed out, Mr. and Mrs. Barnes may have assumed that Anglin wanted to kill Mr. Barnes or do him serious bodily harm because he had been a close friend of Carlo Webster and might retaliate against Anglin for Mr. Webster’s fatal shooting.
Both Mr. Barnes and his wife Dorlisa had identified Anglin as the shooter. Both had known him most of his life. Both said they saw his distinctive misaligned eye, which Mr. Barnes called a squint and Mrs. Barnes called a cockeye.
Honest witnesses can be mistaken, the judge noted. He had to consider the circumstances in which they had seen the gunman. The lighting at the gas station was good and there was nothing between the windshield of the car and the gunman to obstruct their view.
But the opportunity to observe the gunman was very short. Mr. Barnes was trying to start the car when the gunman first appeared. He was then driving away, pushing Jeremiah and his brother down in the back seat. Mrs. Barnes had screamed after seeing the gunman, closed her eyes and ducked below the dashboard before the first shot was fired.
Mrs. Barnes had said she looked straight at the gunman and he had nothing on his face. Mr. Barnes said the gunman was wearing two bandanas, one above the eyes and one below. However, he did not say that in his statement to police or during the fist trial.
A man who was working at the gas station that night saw the gunman approach. He described the person as wearing a Halloween mask and initially thought it was some kind of prank.
CCTV footage from the gas station showed the gunman wearing a hoodie and a mask or some face covering. Video image expert Grant Fredericks accepted that the gunman had a mask or some face covering.
Justice Quin noted that Mr. Barnes had given incorrect descriptions of what the gunman was wearing, saying he had on black pants and a black jacket with red stripes. CCTV showed the gunman wearing blue jeans and a green hoodie. Anglin reportedly wore black clothing earlier in the day.
Although Mr. and Mrs. Barnes said they were certain the gunman was Anglin, their eyewitness identification evidence was very poor and made in extremely difficult circumstances, the judge said. “I cannot be sure that their purported recognition of Devon Anglin is correct.”
There was evidence of gunshot residue on Anglin’s clothing and in the car he had been seen in. But two gunshot residue experts said there was a significant chance of innocent contamination. Anglin was arrested by officers who had carried firearms. The residue in the car could have been the result of where the car was searched.
A comparison of clothing worn by the gunman and by Anglin – as seen on courthouse CCTV when he attended court that same day – showed that the jeans and shoes might or might not be the same, Justice Quin summarized. Anglin’s hairline was consistent with the gunman’s hairline, but the CCTV footage was very low resolution.
He found this evidence to be tenuous, inherently weak and not capable of supporting the eyewitness evidence.
Two teenaged girls had given evidence that they had seen Anglin the evening of the shooting, but could not say whether they saw him before or after 8 p.m. – the time of the shooting. There was also evidence that Anglin had showered at his cousin’s home after 8 p.m. and that he had been drinking, but neither of these factors increased the reliability of the eyewitness evidence and was not capable of supporting it.
The case for the prosecution was conducted by lead counsel Andrew Radcliffe, assisted by senior Crown counsel Elisabeth Lees. Justice Quin pointed out that it was not the duty of the prosecution to obtain a conviction by all means at its command. The duty was to lay all evidence before the court.