Attorneys for Raziel Jeffers appeared before the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Tuesday to argue against his 2014 conviction for manslaughter.
Jeffers was charged “together with other persons” of murdering Marcus Mauricio Guzman Duran on March 11, 2010, outside an apartment on Maliwinas Way, off North West Point Road in West Bay. The Crown’s case was that Mr. Duran, who sold illegal lottery numbers, was the victim of a planned armed robbery that went wrong. A 12-member jury accepted that Jeffers had provided accomplices with a gun and information about the victim’s movements.
Because of his role as “mastermind,” he could be held responsible for the killing under Cayman law. A Grand Court jury found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment.
Lead defense counsel Tom Price, instructed by attorney Amelia Fosuhene, said the main witness against Jeffers was his ex-girlfriend. Mr. Price argued that defense attorney Brian O’Neill did not have sufficient disclosure from the Crown about the woman, who was under a witness protection program at the time. Mr. O’Neill could not attack her credibility because he had not been fully armed with information, he said.
The woman was described as someone who lied in order to keep receiving benefits from the program; it was her only means of support and the evidence not available at trial was the “sheer volume” of her requests for living expenses. She was also an admitted drug user and at one point during her time under protection there was a statement that she had to have drug rehabilitation. The woman had also made allegations against police officers in a statement which she later withdrew.
“These matters are absolutely critical when it’s the word of one person against another,” Mr. Price said.
In response, lead counsel Andrew Radcliffe submitted details of what the woman had received over a four-year period. The total was $99,708.90. It covered rent and utilities, food, medical and travel expenses, school for the child she had with Jeffers, and college courses for herself. The general expenses had been known at the trial; more disclosure of details could not have helped, he said.
The appeal judges queried another ground of appeal, namely the hearsay aspect of the witness’s evidence. She had told the court that Jeffers phoned her after the shooting and asked her to pick him up; she could hear sirens in the background. The next day, she said, Jeffers told her what his accomplices in the robbery had told him about how the attempted robbery went wrong.
Director of Public prosecutions Cheryll Richards, who had prosecuted the case, responded to this aspect of the appeal.
Court president Sir John Goldring, who heard the appeal with Sir George Newman and Justice Dennis Morrison, said judgment would be delivered at a later date. Jeffers’s attorneys did not proceed with appeals against two convictions for murder. Those cases were appealed previously and both were rejected. The next step of the process would be an appeal to Privy Council.
Jeffers, now 34, was convicted in 2012 of the murder of Marcus Leon Ebanks in West Bay in July 2009. His appeal on that case was dismissed the same year.
He was later charged with the murder of Damion Omar Ming, who was shot in a yard off Birch Tree Hill Road, West Bay, in March 2010. A jury found him guilty after trial in March-April 2014. Jeffers’s appeal on this case was dismissed in July 2015.