A Grand Court jury found Matthew Anthony Whittaker not guilty Tuesday of possessing an unlicensed firearm and ammunition outside Northward Prison in May of 2017.
Whittaker was visibly shaken after the verdict and needed a moment to compose himself.
“Thank you,” he said to Justice Patrick Brooks before turning to the jury. “Thank you, and God bless you all.”
It took the jury less than two hours to reach the verdict after Justice Brooks summed up the case.
Justice Brooks reminded the jury of evidence they had heard over the course of the trial, recapping the testimony of several prison and police officers, as well as the testimony of the defendant and the expert analysis for both the crown and defence.
One prison officer testified that he had seen Whittaker with a chrome firearm in his hands in the Northward parking lot. Whittaker later ran from his car when responding officers arrived, and CCTV footage was shown to the jury in which he ran away from the officers in pursuit.
No weapon was found on Whittaker’s person when he was apprehended. A prison officer later found a .22 revolver concealed in a flower pot near prison offices. Justice Brooks told the jury that the crown believes it is a reasonable and inescapable inference that the defendant attempted to conceal the firearm, and he said that the defence believes there are too many gaps in that scenario.
Justice Brooks also told the jury that the expert witnesses had come to separate conclusions. Both believed that according to Cayman law, the weapon constitutes a firearm.
The defence expert said he was not able to fire the weapon, while the crown’s expert testified that he had gotten it to fire after repeated attempts. The defence expert also said that the bullets found in the gun were old and defective, but the crown’s expert believes they were capable of being fired.
Justice Brooks told the jury that they had to decide whether the weapon is a firearm, whether Mr. Whittaker possessed it and whether he had an intent to possess it. They were charged with making the same judgment on whether Whittaker had meant to possess the ammunition inside the gun.
Whittaker claimed during testimony that he had been set up and that he had previously had problems with the prison officer who claimed that he had seen him with the gun. After being arrested, Whittaker told police that he had run because he was under the influence of alcohol and because he was behind the wheel of a car without having a proper licence.