Two brothers convicted of killing a gang member in a “chilling public execution” have had their convictions and sentences upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Justin Ramoon and Osbourne Douglas were sentenced to 35 and 34 years’ imprisonment, respectively, for the murder of Jason Powery outside the Globe Bar in George Town in July 2015. Attempts to overturn the conviction and sentence were dismissed by the appeals court in a judgment handed down Friday.
The appeals panel agreed that the evidence demonstrated Mr. Ramoon shot Mr. Powery, 20, in the face at close range. Mr. Douglas handed him the firearm before the shooting and then drove him away from the scene.
The pair were convicted of the joint enterprise murder after a judge alone trial in front of Justice Charles Quin in 2016.
The case hinged on CCTV footage of the brothers’ movements before and after the crime, as well as eyewitness evidence.
Jerome Hurlston testified that he had seen Mr. Ramoon shoot Mr. Powery. He claimed the gunman then aimed his weapon at him, but it had misfired. Justin Ebanks gave evidence that he saw Douglas hand the gun to his brother immediately before the shooting.
Lawyers acting for the killers had sought to question the credibility of the two witnesses, claiming they were gang members with an ulterior motive for blaming Mr. Ramoon and Mr. Douglas for the crime.
This was dismissed by the appeals court, who said the evidence of the two men had been scrutinized by the trial judge and was consistent with the CCTV footage.
“In the final analysis, this was a strong case left wholly unanswered by the appellants. It is quite impossible to say that these convictions are unsafe or unsatisfactory,” Sir John Goldring, president of the Court of Appeal, wrote in the judgment.
Mr. Ramoon and Mr. Douglas also sought to have their sentences reduced. The penalty for murder in the Cayman Islands is life in prison. But the law requires the sentencing judge to impose a tariff after which the prisoner becomes eligible for release. The starting point for judges in such cases is 30 years but that can be reduced or increased depending on the circumstances.
In this case, Justice Quin sentenced the brothers to 35 and 34 years, highlighting the possession of the firearm, Mr. Ramoon’s apparent attempt to shoot the witness and the general escalation of gun crime in the Cayman Islands among a list of aggravating factors.
“This was a very public execution of the most evil nature and it could be accurately described as chillingly clinical in its planning and execution,” the judge wrote in his original sentencing ruling.
Lawyers for the brothers argued that the judge had gone too far with this assessment, claiming, among other things, that the use of a gun should not be considered an aggravating factor.
The appeals court upheld Justice Quin’s original decision, adding that he was entitled, as an experienced local judge, to make the comments he did about gun crime in the Cayman Islands, without calling evidence to back up this assessment.
The judges concurred with Justice Quin’s analysis that there were sufficient aggravating circumstances to warrant an increase from the 30-year tariff.
The judgment states, “We add this. These appellants wore no disguise. They openly had with them a gun. They were not unknown to at least some of those present in the area of the Globe Bar. They plainly did not believe anyone would dare to give evidence against them. That says much about these appellants. It also underlines the difficulty of obtaining evidence in cases like these.”
The brothers were flown to the United Kingdom last year to serve out their sentences in a British prison.
At the time, the Cayman Islands government issued statements saying the men’s removal, carried out under the 1884 Colonial Prisoners Removal Act, had been authorized by the U.K. and Cayman Islands governments “in the interests of national security and public safety for the people of the Cayman Islands.”