Archive for August 20th, 2010

Schirn murder verdict sticks

| 20/08/2010 | 5 Comments

(CNS): The appeal made by Randy Martin against his conviction for the murder of Sabrina Schirn has failed and the guilty verdict will stand. The appeal was argued by his attorney Adam King on two grounds, firstly that the judge in Martin’s trial had not given proper consideration of evidence that someone else could have committed the crime and secondly that he misinterpreted evidence of a witness. After a full day of submissions by King and the solicitor general Cheryl Richards QC, the president of the CICA Sir John Chadwick said the panel was satisfied that the appeal should be dismissed and they would reveal their reasons in writing at a later date.

Martin was convicted of murdering Schirn in January 2010 in a judge alone trial in front of Justice Charles Quin. King submitted to the appeal court the argument that the judge had not fully considered in his ruling the material put before him that there was a possibility that the murder had been committed by Lance Myles. King said that in a 62 page judgment he had given only some twelve lines over to the question of Myles, which had played a significant part in the trial, and had not explained his reasons for dismissing the evidence if that was what he had done.

King claimed on behalf of the appellant that the judge had not explained his position on the material that showed Myles had motive because of threatening phone calls, had opportunity because there was an empty window in his cell communication around the time of the murder and that he had given a false alibi. Given what he said was the weight of the evidence that Myles could have been responsible for Schirn’s murder, King argued the judge should have made it clear exactly why he had dismissed that evidence when he found Martin guilty.

The attorney suggested that the trial judge had ‘fudged the issue’ as it could have presented a minefield for him if he could see a possibility that Myles might have been at the scene. “the evidence was too substantial for him to have ignored it” King told the appeal court, suggesting that he had deliberately avoided dealing with it.

The second ground King put forward was that the judge had said a witness that he had relied upon had given evidence that the man he saw getting into a car near the prison farm on the morning of Schirn’s murder might have been lighter skinned than the defendant. However, King pointed out that the witness had never used the word “might’ and on the stand he had indicated clearly that the man he saw had lighter skin than Randy Martin. King suggested this misuse of language had implications that the judge had misinterpreted evidence.

In her response to the appeal Richards noted that the judge had considered the material regarding Myles and made it clear that he had dismissed it. She also argued the evidence put forward by the defence that Myles could have committed the crime was far from significant and not in the least bit probative.

During their line of questioning the appeal court judges also suggested that the material supporting the Myles theory was very speculative and could be seen as becoming “further and further fetched” as they pointed to various flaws in Kings theory. Judge Dr A O Conteh noted that for the appellant’s theory to work Randy Martin must have been at the scene and witnessed his nephew commit the crime if indeed it was true, but at no time had Martin made that direct accusation in any statements or on the stand.

The judge said that the defence had chosen to make a case based on pointing the finger at Myles but he had never actually said “my nephew did it”.

King pointed out that Martin’s position was indeed that when he left Schirn she was alive and that he did not know who had committed the murder.

Following the decision King said it was too early to say if he would be taking the case to the Privy Council but confirmed that once the human rights act came into force Martin would be seeking to have the mandatory life sentence re-considered.

Following the decision by the court to allow the appeal of William McLaughlin Martinez on Tuesday sending it back to the Grand Court for a retrial, this dismissal is likely to come as a relief to the prosecution, however, the solicitor general made no comment on the decision.

The badly decomposed body of Sabrina Schirn was found a week after she was reported missing in the wilderness close to the former prison farm at High Rock in East End. She had likely been murdered with a machete or similar sharp blunt instrument however, no murder weapon was ever recovered. Martin was arrested shortly after following the discovery of forensic evidence linking him to the scene and to the murder victim.


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Garbage patch discovered in Atlantic

| 20/08/2010 | 0 Comments

(Independent): A huge expanse of floating plastic debris has been documented for the first time in the North Atlantic Ocean. The size of the affected area rivals the "great Pacific garbage patch" in the world’s other great ocean basin, which generated an outcry over the effects of plastic waste on marine wildlife. The patch  which was discovered to the east of Bermuda, consists mostly of fragments no bigger than a few millimetres wide. But their concentrations and the area of the sea that is covered have caused consternation among marine biologists studying the phenomenon. Kara Lavender Law from the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said the size of the Atlantic "garbage patch" was roughly equal to the one in the Pacific..

"The Pacific has received more attention in terms of plastic accumulation but we know less about the Pacific so it’s very difficult to compare the Atlantic patch in terms of size. We had a cruise this summer to try to find the eastern extent and in fact we failed to find it," Dr Lavender Law said.

Small fragments of plastic could pose an even greater menace to marine life than the larger fragments that become entangled with animals such as albatrosses and turtles, she said. "We know that smaller pieces of plastic are eaten and it’s unclear what happens to that plastic then. But clearly biological organisms were not designed to eat plastic," she said.

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Why not Pedro?

| 20/08/2010 | 26 Comments

Much has been said about a cruise ship docking facility on Grand Cayman. We are probably the last place in the Caribbean to realise we need such a facility. What are we waiting for? Until all ships have bypassed us and like services to our people and visitors? We have gotten so complacent; we let them wait weeks and months for a simple approval.

Wake up! We are no longer living in a time when we can hold up progress by just not doing our work and allowing all kinds of obstacles to distract us. We are living in a very competitive world, education being a key component. Good manners, honesty and impeccable service – the countries that have these will succeed.

Our economy, like all countries in the world, is in trouble. We must be creative and again look for that crystal ball that helped Cayman in the past. The cruise ship dock looks like it will cost $200 million, presumably CI dollars. This is a lot of money for this country. I am not an engineer, but I believe we need to use good old common sense.

Why don’t we do this dock on the ironshore of Pedro St. James Castle? Government has a fair amount of ironshore land here and, if needs be, could purchase more reasonably. I understand the water next to the ironshore is at least 300 feet deep – no need to dredge.

Put as many finger piers as is needed and far enough apart that the cruise ships can come in between the piers and land their people. These piers could be covered and on a big enough land area with adequate restrooms and eating places to comfortably take care of the arrivals. Use videos to welcome our guests. At the end of each pier, have a Caymanian giving discount books, including special return airline and hotel fares, and a general information brochure on the Island.

A good public transit company should be formed, allowing only Caymanians and status holders to buy in, limiting the amount of shares for company or individual and allow present tour bus companies and taxis to purchase up to 70 percent. Visitors would be bussed over the Island to attractions such as duty free/gift shops, the Turtle Farm and the Botanic Park.

Have a designated area for booked water sports and those who are interested in doing water sports. Let these operators pick up their people and save time.

The deck at Pedro would be a better sheltered area and ships should be able to dock there almost every day of the year versus docking in George Town, where in the winter months it is plagued with northwesters. That is the busiest time of year and ships will have to pass us by.

I am sure we would save half of this $200 million, save the environment and save time. Cruise ship arrivals is a big industry; every person should have bread on the table.

Pedro Castle is here and close by. It is a huge dug out area across from the ironshore in Pedro. Government should assist the owners to use this as a lobster, shrimp and conch farm. This would be a great attraction. A fee could be charged and it would make money as well as generate food.

What has happened to the cruise ships’ offer to build a dock? This would be good business to have the people who will use the dock involved. They are the ones that will pay for the project.

If Pedro is used for the dock, government should add dock space for visiting yachts. Let’s save our God-given treasure, the North Sound, for future generations to enjoy.

Remember Cayman is a low lying island in the path of hurricanes and earthquakes. We should not be excavating our shores.

This is precious time we are dealing with.

Once these ships have moved out, it will take a while to get them to return or they may never do so. Let’s do the right thing for Cayman. Let’s start now. Delay is dangerous. We are losing business. Together we can make Cayman a better and more successful island. Let’s start.

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Judge rules banks should reveal Madoff reports

| 20/08/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): HSBC Europe’s biggest bank, should turn over internal reviews of potential fraud and other operational risks at Bernard Madoff’s business from 2006 and 2008, a New York judge has ruled. US Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland agreed to seek an order from the High Court in London forcing HSBC to hand over reports, contracts, audio recordings and documents related to examinations of Madoff’s firm conducted by an affiliate of KPMG International. HSBC acted as custodian bank for several funds that invested with the con man. The last review was commissioned by HSBC in September 2008, about three months before Madoff’s arrest, according to the ruling.



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Randy Martin to appear before appeal judges

| 20/08/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The man who was convicted in January this year of the murder of 21-year-old Sabrina Schirn will have his appeal heard this morning. Randy Martin is the second person convicted of murder to appear before the three judge panel during this Court of Appeal session. On Tuesday the judges quashed the conviction of William Martinez McLaughlin, who was convicted in July 2009 by a jury of murdering Brian Rankine Carter, and ordered a retrial. Martin was found guilty following a judge alone trial and sentenced to the mandatory life sentence. Attorneys will now argue a case for overturning that verdict before Appeal Court President Sir John Chadwick and his colleagues, Justice E Mottley and Dr A O Conteh.

Martin was convicting of killing Schirn with a machete at the prison farm in East End by Justice Charles Quin. During the trial it was revealed that Schirn had voluntarily visited Martin at an infamous meeting spot on the edge of Wilderness Farm in East End after Martin had slipped away from the guards. The prosecution said that during that meeting something had gone wrong and Martin, who has the use of only one arm, had attacked Schirn with the machete he was using for his farm work and left her to die.  
The trial revealed that prisoners at the farm were routinely receiving unofficial visits at the location, where they received drugs and engaged in sexual activity with girlfriends. It was also apparent that the inmates had access to mobile phones, which enable them to keep in contact with the outside world at will and organise the clandestine visits and drug deliveries.
Following Schirn’s murder the farm was closed pending a report and has since been permanently closed.
Check back to CNS later today for details of Martin’s appeal and the judges’ decision.

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Port EIA done, no results

| 20/08/2010 | 46 Comments

(CNS): According to a statement by government officials, the proposed cruise berthing development is still on track and DECCO Ltd. (Dart) will be undertaking the project, despite the fact that the MOU signed in April has expired. MLA Cline Glidden said that negotiations are almost complete and the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) has been done by CD Howe Company (Canada & Cayman) and DHI (Danish Hydraulics Institute), assisted by specialist subcontractors.  However, the results of that work were not revealed nor has a start date been given for what is now believed to be a much bigger project. Glidden said that the project would be completed by October 2012 and government would be revealing more details next month.

The project, which has the backing of a majority of tourism stakeholders, has raised concern among other groups as a result of the environmental damage that could result from such a large scale project in the George Town Harbour. Government has state, however, that there is a pressing economic need to build berthing facilities and it hopes to mitigate as much of the environmental impact as possible.
In a release yesterday (19 August) Glidden, who is Chairman of the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development, said the EIAR covered the components listed in the draft Terms of Reference prepared by the Cayman Department of Environment in April 2009 and with reference to the World Bank’s “Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines for Ports, Harbours and Terminals” and internationally accepted standards and criteria.
“The EIA included the analysis of existing data and studies and a large number of special investigations and studies, computer simulations, surveys, etc., with respect to the Project site and areas affected,” the statement said but did not reveal any of the findings.
The exclusive MOU, which was for 90 days, was signed in April but government said it has been a highly complex negotiation requiring subject matter experts in an array of professions and hundreds of man-hours to reach this stage. “Yet, all remain committed to the view that cruise berthing facilities are necessary to protect and enhance the long term viability of the Cayman Islands’ cruise industry,” it said.
Government has said if the Cayman Islands does not build the piers the next generation of cruise ships that are now being added to cruise schedules, such as the 6,000 passenger Genesis class, will not call on Grand Cayman.
The project is set to transform the George Town harbour front and is now believed to incorporate a wider transformation of George Town and may include a super-yacht marina and other new elements. Estimates suggest the entire project will cost around $200 million. The government will not be paying directly for the project but the financing will come from the private sector. Dart is expected to recoup its investment through fees from the cruise lines and from the retail units that will form parts of the upland development.
“The project team continues to work diligently in pursuit of an optimal agreement, integrating the country’s infrastructure needs, tourism needs and the current and foreseeable economic conditions. It was precisely with such considerations in mind that the government and Port Authority selected DECCO as the development partner – a choice that has been lauded by stakeholders given DECCO’s experience and proven ability to deliver a large scale, first class project and the financial wherewithal of its parent company Dart Enterprises (Cayman) Ltd,” the government said in the statement but did not indicate where Dart had previously developed a cruise port.
Glidden said that his government remains steadfastly committed to the local cruise tourism industry and believed there is a need for managed growth of cruise arrivals.
“We are on track to have the new pier facilities completed by October 2012 and we intend to host the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) on Grand Cayman that same month,” Glidden stated. “Cruise Tourism employs hundreds of people, directly and indirectly, and we understand that growing the benefits to local businesses and individuals helps to sustain the overall economy.”
He said everyone involved was keen to see that the project would be environmentally responsible and economically viable as well as giving priority to national interests and local businesses. Glidden said the goal was to “protect Cayman’s leadership position by creating a destination within a destination."

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Shift change ups cop presence

| 20/08/2010 | 16 Comments

(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has changed the way its shifts operate in order to boost the number of officers available and offer more flexibility for police cover.  With police numbers still falling short of full capacity, the police commissioner has said that the change to shifts has increased staff cover by about 20%. David Baines explained that officers are no longer working four days on, four days off on a twelve hour shift but are now working staggered shifts across five days that vary in length from eight to eleven hours, starting at different points in the day. The visibility of officers and insufficient numbers were two issues of concern raised during the latest police public meeting in East End. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Baines admitted that the service was still short staffed and he had faced a number of recruitment challenges. He said, however, that it was an issue he had been working on since he took up the post as commissioner but pointed out that he couldn’t just open a box and find police officers. The service had to either recruit experienced officers from overseas or train up new recruits and, he said, over the last year or so over forty people had passed through the police training programme and a number of experienced professionals from overseas were already in post and more were on their way.
Despite the problem with numbers, he said the change in shift patterns was making better use of existing police officers and giving management a larger pool of officers at the times when they were needed most. Baines noted that while the old shift system may have suited the officers, it was not conducive to serving the diverse needs of the public.
He said the different shifts also ensured there was no longer a single point in the morning and the evening when the shifts were handed over in Bodden Town, leaving the outer districts such as East End without police cover, as there was now an overlap.
Opposition MLA for East End, Arden McLean who was at the meeting held at the United Church Hall, pointed out that hehad been pushing for many years to try and get a full compliment of police officers in East End and to keep the district sub-station open but he said he was disappointed that the district still seemed to be neglected, a sentiment that was shared by a number of people at the meeting. “People here believe that the police think East End is too far away, it’s too rural and insignificant,” he said. “But it is incumbent on the police service to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Baines said that the eastern districts were not ignored but he had to balance officers against the number of calls which were less from the east. He said the goal was to double the existing numbers of neighbourhood police officers across the islands as soon as the recruitment process allowed it, as he said the message coming through from the community is that people wanted a visible presence of local officers.
Answering the long standing and common complaint that officers drive through the district relatively regularly but they never get out and see what’s going on, Baines said he would ensure that the message was delivered to the district officers that they needed to walk about as well as drive around the area.
The small group of East Enders at the second of the series of ‘Have Your Say’ meetings delivered the same message to the commissioner as they have his three predecessors: that they would like to have a relationship with their local police. However, the barriers to that relationship included a lack of trust because of previous breaches of confidence and because they do not know the officers policing their district.

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Drunk driver takes out traffic lights

| 20/08/2010 | 11 Comments

(CNS): Police are asking drivers to take care this morning at the junction of Easter Avenue and Godfrey Nixon Way because the traffic lights are not working as a result of a motor vehicle accident. At around 2:20am this morning, Friday 20 August, a Honda Accord was travelling along Easter Ave heading towards Shedden Road when the driver lost control and collided with the traffic lights. The male driver sustained minor injuries and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The car received major damage to its front end. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

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