Psychiatrists have concluded that Travis Jarrell Webb, a Bodden Town man accused of burying a child alive in November 2018, has met the test of insanity, a court heard on Friday.
The two doctors examined Webb at the request of both the prosecution and defence in the case.
Webb, 27, is expected to face a two-day trial in March for a single charge of attempted murder. In May 2019, during a Grand Court mention hearing, Webb pleaded not guilty to the charge. At that time, Oliver Grimwood, Webb’s defence attorney, requested a judge-alone trial.
However, on 10 Dec., prosecutor Scott Wainwright told Justice Cheryll Richards that the law did not provide for such an option.
“The difficulty that we face is that the law states that only a jury can deliver a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity,” Wainwright said.
Section 158 of the Cayman Islands Criminal Procedure Code (2019 Revision) states that “the jury shall return a special verdict that the accused was not guilty of the act or omission charged against him by reason that he was insane at the material time”.
Grimwood told Justice Richards he would need to reread the law to see if the word ‘jury’ could be interpreted to mean something apart from the traditional panel.
“However, if it is that a jury trial is the only mode, then we will proceed,” he said. “In light of the fact that both the prosecution and defence experts are both in agreement that Mr. Webb has met the test of insanity, I do not anticipate that I will need to call a live witness. And, therefore, we can read the statements into the record. However, if the jury does return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, the courts will be faced with another problem.”
Grimwood noted that if such a verdict were returned, housing Webb would be an issue, saying “the courts would then have to commit him to a hospital or a mental institution of some sort”.
He pointed to Section 159 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code which reads that following “a special verdict” such as “not guilty by reason of insanity”, “the court shall order him to be conveyed to any hospital or other place for the time being appointed under any law to be a mental hospital or for the reception of criminally insane persons….”
Grimwood highlighted the fact that such an order would be problematic because Cayman does not have a dedicated mental health facility.
The Cayman Islands Hospital has an acute mental ward, which stabilises people in need of immediate care, but it does not have the resources to house a person nor does it have the security staff to provide 24-hour monitoring for an indefinite period.
“In other jurisdictions, like England and Wales, legislation allows for judges to impose absolute discharges, non-committal orders, community services, as well as committal orders,” Grimwood said. “Cayman’s legislation does not provide those options.”
Another potential issue Grimwood raised was that those jurisdictions give the option for either the attending doctor of a person held in a mental institution, or a panel, deciding when and if a person is fit to be released. However, in Cayman, such a release order lies with the governor.
Section 159 (1) Criminal Procedure Code states that a criminally insane person is to be kept in hospital “until discharged by order of the Governor”.
Webb was remanded into custody and is expected to appear before the court next month.