A Grand Court jury of five women and two men returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty on Thursday in the trial of Mark Melado Llewellyn, accused of possessing an unlicensed firearm.
Llewellyn, 36, did not give evidence, but by his questions to police and expert witnesses, made his position clear – that his DNA had been transferred either deliberately or inadvertently to a .38 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
The Crown’s case was presented by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran.
In his summing up to the jurors, Justice Paul Worsley reminded them that the defendant had pleaded not guilty to possessing the firearm on June 5, 2015. It was found under the stove in an apartment he had rented days before. Police went to the apartment with a search warrant and the landlady used her key to let them in.
The landlady, giving evidence for the Crown, told the court she was not asked to be present when the search was carried out. She also said she had sprayed the walls when the apartment was empty and had pulled out the stove to do so. She said there was no gun on the floor then.
One of the officers who took part in the search said he pulled the drawer out from the bottom of the stove and on the floor saw a transparent Ziploc bag with a gun, magazine and a round of ammunition. No fingerprints were found on the plastic bag.
The jurors also heard that a search warrant gives officers the power to search without any other person being present.
Llewellyn asked if they could be sure that the officers recovered the gun in the circumstances they described. He also pointed out that a third person had a key to the premises – might that person have gone there and hidden the gun under the stove?
He criticized the police work and questioned whether an officer allowed DNA from other items in the apartment to get on the gun. He suggested his DNA could have been planted – that police could have smeared or wiped his dirty clothing across various parts of the gun.
Llewellyn represented himself, but the judge asked attorney John Meghoo to assist in the questioning of two DNA experts, one for the Crown and one for the defense.
The experts agreed that, scientifically, they could not say how Llewellyn’s DNA got on the gun.
Findings that showed the DNA on the gun was Llewellyn’s did not help explain how the transfer of DNA occurred, the judge pointed out. The simplest explanation is direct transfer – the handling of an object by a person who leaves his/her body cells, saliva, hair, blood or other body fluids.
One of the experts said that, as a scientist, she could not say how the DNA came to be on the swabs she tested. But, she noted, it would be difficult to carry out a transfer by “planting” with all the checks and balances that are in the laboratory. It would also be difficult to imagine how it could be done at the police station.
Llewellyn criticized the Crown expert for not testing for body fluids. She replied that it was not standard to do so. She also noted that she had not been asked.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before reaching a verdict. Afterward, Llewellyn’s remand in custody was continued because he had other matters in Summary Court.