Trial takes unexpected twist

| 18/12/2009

(CNS): Following legal submissions from both crown and defence counsel in the trial of Randy Martin for the murder of Sabrina Schirn, the judge ruled that evidence from a reluctant witness, which the crown believes offered a possible motive for the killing, could be read to the court on Thursday. Even though the defence could not cross examine the witness on the statement, the judge said the statement was significant enough to be admitted in the interest of justice. The testimony revealed that the defendant believed that Schirn was somehow involved in the attempted murder of his brother, Fernando Martin, by Sheldon Brown.

The witness, who had told the court on Wednesday that she was too afraid for her life to give evidence, was excused by Justice Charles Quin on Thursday morning following his ruling that she had sufficient grounds to be afraid. However, in the interests of justice and because of what he said was the significance of her statement, he also ruled that he would allow the crown to read the witness statement to the court, even though it would mean the defence team could not question the truth of the testimony. The judge said that, as a result of that, he would be required to balance the evidence knowing that it was not subject to cross examination.

Following the judge’s ruling, Cheryll Richards, the solicitor general who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the crown, read the short but nevertheless surprising statement, which for the first time in four weeks of crown witnesses offered a possible motive for Martin to have killed Schirn on 11 March 2009.

The statement came from a former girlfriend of Martin’s, who spoke with the police in April of this year during the investigation. The woman had related an isolated incident that she had witnessed to the officers, which probably took place in 2007. She said that when she and Martin were together one evening they had visited a George Town bar, where they encountered Schirn. The witness said she knew Schirn as they had attended the same school and had been friends but had not spoken for quite some time. However, on this occasion, Martin told the witness that he knew Schirn as well and said that that she had something to do with the shooting up of his brother, Fernando, by Sheldon Brown.

No details were given in the statement about what Martin had implied but the witness went on to reveal that she left the bar for a short period. When she came back she saw Martin arguing with Schirn before he pushed her head into the food she was eating.

Following the reading of the statement, Richards asked the judge to also look at a news clippings that had been admitted in evidence earlier in the trial, which were taken from Martin’s cell, that referred to the appeal of Sheldon Brown over the his attempted murder conviction for the defendant’s brother, James Fernado Martin.

Brown received a 22 year sentence for the offence, which took place in August 2004 at the Cayman Islander Hotel. His appeal for the conviction was rejected in November 2008. During the trial Fernando Martin claimed Brown had shot him because he had been a witness in a previous case against Brown for which he was acquitted.

The trial resumes on Friday morning with the return of crown witness, RCIPS officer Lauriston Burton, who was second in command of the investigation under SIO Kim Evans and has been asked by the defence to demonstrate what actions were taken regarding the conflicting testimony given by previous witnesses, in particular Lance Myles, who the defence claims had both the motive and opportunity to murder Schirn.

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