Cayman’s high court dismisses 12 appeals

Decisions given in all cases except Simon Courtney’s

The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal concluded its spring session on Friday, dealing in two weeks with a list that included one civil matter and 17 criminal appeals.

Two individuals abandoned their appeals, one had a case management hearing and one had his appeal against sentence allowed. Twelve other appeals were dismissed.

The only matter not completed was that of Simon Courtney. Attorney Laurence Aiolfi argued against Courtney’s conviction for reckless driving and causing grievous bodily harm to two elderly tourists when his car mounted the sidewalk along West Bay Road and hit them on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.

The three-member court reserved judgment but requested submissions regarding Courtney’s sentence of three years’ imprisonment, which Mr. Aiolfi argued was manifestly excessive. No date was set for a decision to be handed down.

Raziel Jeffers, 33, had a case management hearing for his appeal against conviction for manslaughter, which is listed for Aug. 29 and 30. Court President Sir John Goldring noted that one of the issues is the scope of the appeal – whether Jeffers’s two murder appeals that have already been dismissed can be considered in this appeal. Jeffers was sentenced in 2014 to 20 years’ imprisonment after a jury found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter for his role in the fatal shooting of Marcos Duran in 2010.

Three of the four men convicted of robbing Blackbeard’s Liquor Store in December 2014 were refused leave to appeal after attorneys presented their grounds. Andrew Lopez, 23, and Randy Connor, 26, were sentenced after trial in 2015 to 12 years each after a Grand Court jury returned unanimous verdicts against them. Devon Wright Jr., 26, was sentenced to nine years; he had pleaded guilty at an early stage. Bron Webb, who also was sentenced to 12 years, abandoned his appeal.

The robbery occurred on the night of Dec. 17, 2014, and involved the theft by force of CI$4,604.42 and US$582; robbing a customer in the store; and possession of an unlicensed firearm, a gold-colored shotgun with three live rounds of ammunition.

Lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths, who represented Lopez, was asked by the court if 12 years was manifestly excessive. “Surely, the justice of the case could be met with 10 years,” he replied.

Attorney Crister Brady submitted on behalf of Wright that because of previous convictions for burglary, the Grand Court judge had raised his sentencing starting point to 14 years before applying a discount, and the resulting nine years was too high.

At some point, Justice Goldring asked if the Court of Appeal had the power to increase sentences. Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards said yes. Asked if it had happened, she said no.

Justice John Martin was expected to provide written reasons for the court’s decisions.

Leighton Griffin Rankine Jr. lost his appeal against conviction on two counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily and possession of an unlicensed firearm. The incident occurred in 2012; Rankine maintained he had no memory of it. He elected trial by judge alone, was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. The Court of Appeal said Justice Marva McDonald had given herself “impeccable directions” and they were unable to say her verdicts were unsafe or unsatisfactory.

Donald Calvin Hooker, 42, had his appeal against sentence dismissed. He agreed that a Summary Court sentence of seven years for multiple offenses had already been reduced to five-and-a-half years in Grand Court, but argued that his case had been dragged out until new sentencing guidelines were in place. The court said that made no difference as long as the maximum sentence had not changed.

Hooker told the court of his involvement in prison programs, including those run by the National Drug Council and the Sycamore Tree, which provides a way of making amends to victims. “I’ve run out of resources,” he said. “I’m just warehoused at prison. I would like to get into an outpatient program so I can continue my journey [as a recovering drug addict].”

The court said this was not a ground for appeal, but it might stand him in good stead when it came time for his release date to be considered.

Limborn Myles, sentenced to nine-and-a-half years for importation of 1,327 grams of cocaine, had a similar argument. He referred to the community work he did under prison supervision – most recently for the Agricultural Show – and said he realized that this was a matter for the parole board. However, Caymanian prisoners had benefits such as home visits which he, as a foreigner did not have, so he was asking the court for help.

The court said Myles had spoken eloquently, but what was relevant in deciding whether a sentence was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle was the circumstances of the offending itself. Myles had brought in a substantial quantity of a dangerous drug. The starting point of 15 years was correct and there was no scope for any argument that either the Summary Court or the Grand Court had erred in the discounts allowed.

In the case of Mark Seymour, who was appealing against conviction for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, the court said the trial judge did not err in his directions to the jury. The main issues were the “bad character” of the complainant/victim and the accuracy of his identification of Seymour as the man who had stabbed him. The sentence of eight years was not excessive given that the attack was unprovoked and in light of Seymour’s previous convictions.

Otis Myles appealed against a sentence of seven years, nine months for three burglaries, telling the court that it was “kinda too much.” The court disagreed, noting his eight previous convictions for burglary. The court said the sentences were well within the guidelines and appropriate to the cases.

The Cayman Compass has already reported on the appeals by Meleton Maick, Cory Bowen, Leonard Antonio Ebanks, Jordan Manderson and Austin Jackson.

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