Attorneys close on gun trial

| 27/04/2010

(CNS): The prosecution and defence teams finally completed their closing arguments this morning at the end of a long and protracted Grand Court firearms trial, which included numerous closed door hearings and a mid-point adjournment. Keith Orrett, Brian Borden, Bjorn Ebanks and Keith Montaque are all charged with possession of unlicensed firearms following a police raid on Orrett’s home where two shotguns were found in the attic. The prosecution says the men are guilty because of DNA found on the weapons, and in the case of Orrett because it was his residence. The defence, however, claims the DNA evidence is weak at best and the crown has not proved possession.

During her closing speech on Monday morning (26 April) Trisha Hutchinson, for the prosecution, said that Orrett was guilty as he was the tenant at the premises and he did nothing to prevent the guns from being in his home despite knowing they were there, and the other three are guilty as a result of traces of their DNA being found on one, or in the case of Montaque, both of the weapons.
Hutchinson told the jury that they could put aside claims by the defence that the DNA could be there as a result of contamination as the officers wore gloves. “You should not be troubled by the question of transference," the prosecutor said. “Cast it aside.”

She said it was more than a coincidence that the men were at the house at the time the police found the guns and that their DNA was found on the weapons because they were guilty. She suggested that claims of fear by Orrett were contrived in order to get him out of trouble but that he had control of the premises and was therefore also guilty.

John Fox was the first of the four defence lawyers to present his closing speech on behalf of his client Keith Orrett, reminding the jury he was the only one of the defendants whose DNA had not been found on the guns. He also insisted that fear was a very real factor for his client, who was not in control of the weapons. Fox explained that his client had seen one of the other defendants holding one of the guns and as a result he had every reason to be afraid.

Moreover, Fox said his client had cooperated with the police all through and that he had no reason to tell the police he had ever seen one of the guns on the premises. Fox pointed out it was not an offence for Orrett to be in his house and that the guns were brought there without his knowledge. When he became aware he was not in control. “There is nothing before this court to say that he ever handled these guns," Fox told the jury. “It is laughable to suggest he was in control … the one with the gun had the control.” The attorney pointed out that, having seen one of the firearms, Orrett was in no position to ask anyone to leave as he was afraid for his own life and the lives of his family.

Fox said the prosecution had no evidence that Orrett was in any way connected to the guns and the jury must return a verdict of not guilty.

Defence attorney for Brian Borden told the jury that the DNA samples found on the weapon which supposedly matched his client could very easily be as a result of contamination. Nicholas Hoffman said there was no evidence that his client had ever been in the attic and the statements by Orrett that he had seen him with the gun could not be used against Borden as they were made in circumstances where Borden could not defend himself.

He said the prosecution had offered no evidence as to why the men were connected to the guns when so many other people were at the house that weekend whose DNA was not tested. He said the DNA evidence against his client was a mixed sample that could also match up to 44,000 other people, almost the entire population of the islands, even before the issues of contamination were raised. Hoffman suggested that it was ridiculous that a jury was being asked to decide guilt when there was no evidence against his client.

He said Borden was the last person to be searched before the officers involved then went and handled the guns possibly wearing the same gloves. The case against his client, Hoffman claimed was littered with mistakes — contradictions among witnesses, problems with DNA and many other inadequacies in the quality of the investigation. He told the jury that there was only one verdict, which was not guilty.

Nick Dixie, who spoke on behalf of Bjorn Ebanks, also noted that the only reason why his client was sitting in the dock is because a trace of his DNA had appeared on one of the firearms. Dixie again noted the issue of contamination and transference that had been revealed during the trial and pointed out that his client was excluded from every DNA mark that was tested bar one, where the expert had said in one mixed sample Ebanks could not be excluded. However, Dixie pointed out that the sample could also belong to at least 390 other people, according to the lab results.

He also noted the extent to which the scene in the attic and the house could have been contaminated and that the police officers, far from wearing the forensic crime scene suits used them to put things on. The defence attorney also reminded the jury how the DNA expert witness had confirmed that the mixed samples he was given would be consistent with transference. “This case would be laughable were it not so serious,” Dixie told the jury as he asked them to judge his client fairly.

The last of the defence attorneys to speak for the accused men was Ben Tonner, who took to his feet on Tuesday morning on behalf of Keith Montague. Tonner gave the jury an imaginary scenario in which they found themselves in trouble with the police in similar circumstances to the client and pointed out how they would trust the police to investigate properly.

He said in this case, however, the police had not investigated properly but had made many mistakes. Tonner said the police didn’t change gloves, the crime scene was littered with contamination and cross contaminated during the investigation. “I don’t have time to deal with all the clangers that the police made," he said but pointed out that officers had failed to change gloves between searching his client and the other men before they handled the firearms.

He also noted that the officers did not send other swabs to the lab of the several other people that were present at the house over the weekend before the police arrived there. Tonner also noted that the crime scene investigator had completely missed a clear and obvious hand-print on the air-condition duct right by where the guns were hidden, a print that could have demonstrated without doubt who had actually been in the attic.

Tonner told the jury that not only did crime scene officer, Stephen Best, miss the palm and finger prints (even though he had taken the photograph of it) he had taken no finger prints from the attic or the entrance hatch to it. He said the issue of contamination and transference was very real and despite claims made by the prosecution the jury could not dismiss it.

“The police failed to investigate this properly," Tonner said. “This investigation was an absolute shambles," he told the jury, adding that there was simply not enough evidence to convict his client.

Following the completion of the closing statements, Justice Charles Quin told the jury that he would sum up and offer directions concerning the law for them on Wednesday morning before they would be released to deliberate and consider their verdict.

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