Fact-finding finished for ‘Foots’ obscenity trial

Matter could continue in June

Ronald 'Foots' Kynes, left, looks on as Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn examines his statues as part of his trial for possessing an obscene publication. - Photo: Ken Silva

Nearly two full days of proceedings was not enough to complete the trial of Cayman Brac artist Ronald “Foots” Kynes, who faces a charge of possessing an obscene publication in relation to four statues he had on display at his property since last summer.

Both Mr. Kynes and the prosecution presented all their factual evidence, but they have yet to argue whether the defendant is protected by his constitutional right to freedom of expression.

At the end of Friday, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said she will have to make a ruling on the facts of the case before the constitutional arguments can be made. If Ms. Gunn’s “interim finding” rules that Mr. Kynes possessed an obscene publication, then the parties will move on to their constitutional arguments; if she does not, then Mr. Kynes will have been found not guilty and the trial will be finished.

The two-day trial at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre entailed the prosecution calling eight witnesses; playing a nearly hour-long recording of Mr. Kynes’s interview with police; and having Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran questioning the defendant. Mr. Kynes, for his part, submitted a slew of documents in his defense and contended that “my art is love.” The magistrate also visited Mr. Kynes’s properties to examine some of his statues.

The Crown’s witnesses alleged that two statues on Mr. Kynes’s roadside property both featured two women indulging in sexual acts with one another. Two other statues of women with skulls by their vaginas were also the subject of the trial, but did not receive nearly as much attention from the prosecution or witnesses.

When it was Mr. Kynes’s turn to cross-examine the witnesses, at times his line of questioning devolved into arguments that appeared to have little to do with the matter at hand.

For instance, when he cross-examined Cayman Brac Pastor Thomas French, the two began a debate about two statues Mr. Kynes had created and displayed several years ago, one of a cross with a bloody goat head skull and the “666” mark on it.

Pastor French said he found it “disturbing” that Mr. Kynes would erect such a statue around the Easter holiday. Mr. Kynes insisted that his statue was depicting the Battle of Armageddon.

When Ms. Gunn asked Mr. Kynes how the argument is relevant to the current case, he replied, “The relevance is that everything I do is art.”

Another witness, Brac resident Elvis McKeever, called Mr. Kynes’s statues an “outrage” and “disgusting.”

Mr. Kynes pointed out that Mr. McKeever has 28 convictions, including one for insulting the modesty of a woman.

When it was his turn to present evidence, Mr. Kynes submitted a packet of letters he said he said he had received from tourists who like his art. He also submitted a book of statues he said he bought at the local library, which shows a statue of a woman getting raped.

Mr. Kynes further submitted a video of 2017 Braccannal, which showed women wining and grinding on men’s crotches during the carnival-like celebration last year. Ms. Gunn said she would not allow the video to be entered as evidence, but that as a resident of the Cayman Islands, she would consider events such as Braccannal and Batabano when determining whether his statues are obscene to local values.

After Mr. Kynes presented his evidence, he was questioned by Mr. Moran.

The prosecutor repeatedly suggested that Mr. Kynes’s statues were sexual in nature, but the defendant refused to state that he intended to depict that. “It all depends on the individual. Some might [think the statues are sexual],” said Mr. Kynes. “I can’t control their thoughts.”

The matter is scheduled to continue on June 27.