A man who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in relation to a home invasion at the Rum Point property of an elderly couple lost his appeal against conviction and sentence this week.
William David McLaughlin-Martinez appeared in the Court of Appeal on Monday, when attorney Jonathon Hughes put forward the appellant’s arguments – that the judge had not instructed the jury properly and that he did not receive enough credit for his previous good character and cooperation with police.
McLaughlin-Martinez was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict in November 2016. The home invasion occurred in January that year. In the home at the time were an elderly couple and their helper.
The Crown’s case was that McLaughlin-Martinez had been in the home previously as a plumber and knew there was jewelry, electronics and cash on the premises. He told another man about it and that man entered the premises while McLaughlin-Martinez acted as lookout.
Mr. Hughes argued that trial judge Justice Dame Linda Dobbs did not give the jury sufficient direction on joint enterprise. In fact, she did not even use the term, so there was not sufficient preciseness in her instructions.
Court president Sir John Goldring read the law aloud from the Penal Code: “When an offense is committed, each of the following persons is deemed to have taken part in committing it – every person doing the act; every person doing anything for the purpose of enabling or aiding any other person in committing the offense; every person who aids or abets another person.”
Sir Alan Moses commented that it was “so refreshing” to see a trial judge sparing the jury the language of the law and basing her directions on facts.
“Was he acting as lookout or wasn’t he? What could be clearer than that?” he asked.
Mr. Hughes said more clarity was needed and that would be a factor when it came to sentencing – whether McLaughlin-Martinez went to the house that evening with the intention to rob.
McLaughlin-Martinez had said at his trial that he went to the house to point it out to the other man, whom he knew only as “Boom,” as a way of paying a drug debt. When he saw the people were home, he pointed out another residence that was not occupied, but Boom went into the first house anyway. McLaughlin-Martinez said he then stayed around out of curiosity.
“It may be refreshing that the jury was spared legal definitions, but he [McLaughlin-Martinez] will argue they should have been aware of legal principles,” Mr. Hughes said.
He agreed the robbery was “a terrible offense.” The value of goods stolen was high, both monetarily and sentimentally. The man in the house had been punched in the face with such force that he fell from his chair and his cheekbone was broken. A necklace and rings were removed from his wife’s person. The intruder cut the phone line and held a 6-inch blade to the helper, forcing her to go upstairs with him as he searched for items to steal, while the homeowner lay on the floor and his invalid wife remained in her chair downstairs.
The three-judge panel, including Sir Bernard Rix, conferred before the president read the court’s decision.
McLaughlin-Martinez had said he never agreed for a robbery to take place, but he saw Boom put on a balaclava and a pair of gloves. McLaughlin-Martinez then remained outside the house for 15 to 30 minutes while events took place; he saw and to some extent heard what was happening. He said he stayed because he wanted to see what happened.
From the directions the judge gave the jurors, it was clear they had to reject his account in order to find him guilty. There was ample evidence, the judges noted.
As to the sentence, the starting point was 11 years, with a range of nine to 13 years. The judges accepted that McLaughlin-Martinez had assisted police in recovering a valuable necklace and he was of previous good character. But he had been in a position of trust as someone previously allowed into the home. The victims were elderly and a serious injury had been inflicted. The court concluded that Justice Dobbs was entitled to pass the sentence she did.