Eatton James Brown, 23, and Odain Lloyd Ebanks, 21, were found not guilty last week of causing grievous bodily harm to a young man who had one eye so badly damaged that it had to be removed after a fight at a bar in March, 2015.
In summing up the evidence to jurors, Justice Charles Quin said it was a very tragic injury, but they had to set aside any sympathy for the victim/complainant just as they had to set aside any prejudice against the defendants.
The Crown’s case, conducted by Senior Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban, was that Brown and Ebanks acted together, deciding to teach the other man a lesson after an exchange of words at the Everglo Bar in Bodden Town. Brown was alleged to have hit the man in the back of the head and Ebanks was alleged to have hit him with a bottle inside the bar.
The complainant’s evidence in court was different from the statement he gave to police after the incident. Initially he told police he was injured outside the bar, but then said it happened inside. He explained that when he gave his first statement he was in pain, under medication and recovering from the loss of his eye.
One witness said that after the physical confrontation between the men, he escorted the complainant outside through the kitchen door and took the defendants outside through the front door. It was after the complainant had been outside that he saw him with blood on his face.
Other witnesses saw parts of what happened indoors, including when the victim was on the floor, but no one saw the whole incident. Defense attorneys Alice Carver and Amelia Fosuhene pointed to evidence of “flying bottles” outside the bar, in which case it would be impossible to say who caused the complainant’s injury if it happened outside.
Both defendants gave evidence. Ebanks said he reacted because the other man assaulted him first inside the bar, cutting him with a box cutter. Brown denied hitting the man. Both defendants referred to the complainant as having a box cutter, but no other witness mentioned one. Ebanks did sustain a cut in the incident.
This fact raised the question of self-defense and Justice Quin explained that it would be for the Crown to prove that the defendants were not acting in self-defense.
Jurors heard recorded interviews of both defendants during the trial and they requested hearing them again during their deliberations.
They returned unanimous not guilty verdicts on the charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent as well as the less serious charge of causing grievous bodily harm.
Justice Quin thanked the four men and three women who had formed the jury for their careful attention. He said the evidence had been complex and not straightforward. “This is a case where genuinely nobody knows quite what happened,” he remarked.
The judge thanked Ms. Lobban for prosecuting the matter “very fairly” – when he had made a mistake in summing up the evidence, she had corrected him, even though the point was in favor of the defense.
As he told jurors earlier, Ms. Lobban’s role as Crown counsel was not to obtain a conviction by all means at her command; her role was to lay before them all the facts of the case, fairly and impartially.
The defense attorneys’ role was to test the case and argue on behalf of their clients, doing the best they can in accordance with their instructions.