Archive for November 29th, 2011

Men acquitted of murder

| 29/11/2011 | 35 Comments

ozz douglas_0.JPG(CNS): The murder conviction against Patrick McField, Osbourne Douglas and Brandon Leslie was quashed by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, but as the three men walked from the court to be greeted by emotional family and friends, Osbourne Douglas (left) was immediately re-arrested by the police over charges relating to conspiracy for murder in connection with the fatal shooting of Jason Christian, who was shot and killed in Crew Road in September. McField and Leslie, however, walked away from the courts after all three men charged and convicted for the murder of Omar Samuels were acquitted and their life sentences set aside.

The Court of Appeal judges said they would set down their full reasons in writing but in the interim they indicated that they believed the judge had erred in law when he allowed the case against the three men to go before a jury, despite the half-way 'no case' submission made by the defendants.

Having been in prison for more than three years, the men were immediately free but the drama continued outside the court house. Police officers were waiting as the men left the courtroom jails and arrested Douglas for conspiracy in connection with the Christian killing, leaving his mother distraught. Police officials soon confirmed that a 25 year old man had been arrested outside the courts in connection with the gang related shooting, which occurred while the George Town man was in jail.

Meanwhile, Leslie and McField celebrated their release and acquittal with friends and family, stating publicly that they had always been innocent.

During the appeal the defence teams for the three men had argued that the crown's case was so inconsistent that it should never have been put before a jury. They pointed to the enormous discrepancies between the eye witness account of where the shooting allegedly occurred, in stark contrast to the forensic indications of where Samuels was shot.

The scientific evidence pointed to an entirely different place, as revealed by the shell cases fired from the weapon that killed 28-year-old Samuels, and the trail of blood from where he was shot in the leg to where he eventually collapsed and bled out from his severed femoral artery.

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Footballers: Too many headers ‘can damage the brain’

| 29/11/2011 | 0 Comments

football header.jpg(BBC): Frequently heading a football can lead to brain injury, warn doctors who say they have found proof on brain scans. Imaging of 32 keen amateur players revealed patterns of damage similar to that seen in patients with concussion. There appears to be a safe cut off level of 1,000 or fewer headers a year below which no harm will be done, but the US investigators say more work is needed to confirm this. Heading is believed to have killed the English footballer Jeff Astle. Astle, 59, who died in 2002, developed cognitive problems after years of playing for England and West Bromwich Albion. The coroner ruled that his death resulted from a degenerative brain disease caused by heading heavy leather footballs.

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The NWA and the JDIP

| 29/11/2011 | 2 Comments

(Jamaica Observer): One of the things that marred the government of the People's National Party during the more than 18 years it was in office was the alarming cost overruns on government projects, especially road construction, which was a gravy train for some party supporters. Two of the expensive cost overruns involved the North Coast Highway which escalated from US$25 million to US$75 million and the Montego Bay to Ocho Rios Highway which increased from US$60 million to US$176 million.

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Premier in Jamaica according to media reports

| 29/11/2011 | 45 Comments

_DEW3817_0.jpg(CNS): Update – Although there has been no official release from the premier’s office, the Jamaican government's information service (JIS) has said that the premier of the Cayman Islands, McKeeva Bush, is currently in Jamaica on the last of a two-day "study tour". Bush and his team, who are guests of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, are specifically looking at the Jamaican government's procurement systems, inclusive of policies, procedures and legislations, which they have cited as "by far the most modern and comprehensive within the region." Accompanying Bush are Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks, Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, Deputy Governor (Designate) Franz Manderson and Senior Political Assistant Richard Parchment. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr) 

The Cayman delegation will meet with a team from the Economic Management Division and the Debt Management Branch (DMB) of the Ministry. Additionally, they will observe the operations of other procurement entities, such as the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and the National Contracts Commission (NCC).

They met with Financial Secretary Dr Wesley Hughes yesterday morning (November 28) for specific discussions on his role in the ministry, as the Cayman Islands transitioned, constitutionally, to having a financial secretary two years ago.

During their visit, Bush will pay courtesy calls on Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Finance and Planning Audley Shaw.

Although the premier’s press office periodically puts out information about the premier’s travels, the Cayman public persistently discovers the whereabouts of their leader through international media reports.

Read commentary: The NWA and the JDIP by Ken Chaplin

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Religious rights don’t trump job contracts, says Coles

| 29/11/2011 | 94 Comments

coles_0.JPG(CNS): The chair of the Human Rights Commission appears to take the position that employment contracts trump anyone’s religious rights in the workplace. According to an interview with Cayman27, the man who is charged with championing the rights of Caymanians as the country moves towards implementing its bill of rights next year has said that whatever a person’s religion, the conditions under which they signed their employment contract is what they should follow, regardless of religious beliefs. Richard Coles told the television news station that if employers were to take the religious practices of their employers into account they may be discriminating against the rest of their work force.

Coles, who is also the chair of Cayman Finance and a former attorney general, believes that people who sign a contract which requires them to work any day of the week cannot expect to be exempted from working on the Sabbath – despite any religious conversion.

The HRC chair spoke to Cayman27 in the wake of a news report on the station regarding an officer who was dismissed from the RCIPS after she had requested not to be rostered Friday nights or Saturday mornings as a result of her conversion to the Seventh Day Adventist church. Although she attempted to find an accommodation with her employer, she was refused any leave to be exempt from those shifts.

The officer made a decision not to work when she was assigned to work Friday nights and Saturday mornings and as a result she was eventually dismissed from the service. 

Go to Cayman27 for interview with Coles and police officer’s story here

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Rollover suspension now in force

| 29/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): With the publication of the regulations of the amendment to the immigration law, the business community can now make applications for a temporary suspension of any worker that was facing rollover and enforced departure. Government is hoping the new term limit extension permit will avert a mass exodus of people and the subsequent negative impact on the already struggling economy that would bring. Following changes to the immigration law last month to put rollover on hold until the immigration review team comes up with a replacement for the policy, employers now have an opportunity to keep staff for two more years without applying for key status. Read more on CNS Business

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Miller to keep elected council

| 29/11/2011 | 15 Comments

_DEW0080.jpg(CNS): Independent MLA Ezzard Miller has said he is very happy with his own district advisory council elected by the people of North Side and has no intentions of disbanding it in order to fit the premier’s view of an appointed local body. Miller stated that if the premier wants to come to the district and create another council, that’s up to him. But the independent member said the people he works with are democratic representatives of his constituents with a proper constitution who have served the district extremely well since the body was created long before government passed the law creating the concept of Cabinet appointed bodies. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

During a meeting in George Town last week, which was hosted by Mike Adam and the premier’s advisor Steve McField, for the people of the capital to submit nominations to the government appointed district council, McField described Miller’s council as not properly appointed.

He listed North Side among the remaining districts that have not yet begun the process to establish a council, along with East End, Bodden Town and the Sister Islands.

Speaking about what he described as a lot of ‘flak’ regarding the district councils, the premier’s legal and policy advisor  stated that Miller’s council was not a “constitutionally adopted council” and that to comply with the law it needed to be appointed by Cabinet.
Miller told CNS that his council was indeed constitutional as the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 does not stipulate how the councils should be formed. He admitted it did not fit with the vision  the premier had for such bodies, which he along with other members of the opposition had opposed because they believe the government’s decision to appoint councils by Cabinet is undemocratic .

“The North Side district council has been constitutionally elected by the people of the district that I represent and I shall be continuing to work with them,” he said. “It might not fit the premier’s view of a democratic body but that’s up to him.”

The opposition has boycotted the process completely as they have stated that they envisioned a local body that would be elected in a town hall-style open vote similar to the one created by Miller. Alden McLaughlin said that the system adopted by the premier would make the councils nothing more than rubber stamps for government policy in the districts, completely undermining the spirit of the concept of local democracy.

McField told the people of George Town that two seats would still be left open on the capital’s council for the opposition to nominate people to the ten member body and said they should participate as it was the law. Seats were left open on the West Bay district council but McKeeva Bush announced recently that he had decided to appoint two people whom he believed could fill the opposition members’ two seats in his district.

Alice Mae Coe, described by Bush as someone who did not support him, and Loxley Ebanks, who the premier said was “independently minded”,  were both nominated at the first West Bay meeting by the people of the district, but they were not selected by the Cabinet. However, Bush said he would appoint them, having ‘labelled’ them as being in opposition to government and because the actual opposition member had persisted with the boycott.

Although the first meeting for the George Town council attracted over a hundred people, the second follow up meeting saw no more than a dozen people attend to collect forms and actually submit nominations. For the second time the government’s backbench representative for George Town, Ellio Solomon was not present as Adam offered apologies on his behalf.

Nominations for the capital’s government-appointed district council will close on 6 December. Although anyone with relevant skills or experience who lives in the district can be nominated to the council, the Cabinet will make the decision on all ten of the appointments. However, according to the law two of the non-office seats should be given to people nominated by the opposition in constituencies with mixed representation. In cases where there are no government members, the opposition is allowed to nominate three of the non-office holding appointments.

So far the only district that has been appointed is the premier’s own constituency of West Bay but the council has not yet met. The meetings are supposed to be public and the members are charged with assessing the needs of their districts and reporting back to advise their political representatives of possible policy positions.

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Appeal opens on GT murder

| 29/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Three men convicted of the murder of Omar Samuels (28) last year were back in court Monday pinning their hopes on the Court of Appeal judges to overturn that conviction as they say their case should never have been allowed to go before a jury. Patrick McField, Osbourne Douglas and Brandon Leslie-Ebanks were found guilty after a Grand Court trial in which the defence consistently argued that the forensic evidence was in complete contradiction to the crown’s two teenage eye witnesses, who claimed to have seen the three men shoot Samuels on 5 July 2009. Samuels died after a bullet penetrated his femoral artery and he bled out as he lay in McField Square in George Town.

During the original trial the defence attorneys submitted a 'no case to answer' to the judge when the crown closed its case against the three men. The lawyers argued that it was not possible for the judge to place such a wholly contradictory case before a jury as they could not possibly be in a position to make a fair decision, given the evidence they had heard.  The judge dismissed the submission, however, as he said he believed there was a case to answer and one which a jury should be allowed to consider and bring in a verdict, despite the obvious discrepancies.

Opening the appeal, Trevor Burke QC, who represented Patrick McField, presented the bulk of the argument for all three defence teams when he said that the judge was wrong to dismiss the half-way point no-case submission at trial and allow a prosecution case that was such a complete contradiction to go to a jury.

He argued that the forensic evidence clearly indicated that the shooting occurred at the opposite side of the building to where the two teenage witnesses claimed the crime had taken place.  He said there was no forensic evidence at all at the place where the teenage girls had testified that they saw the shooting begin. Pointing to a myriad of inconsistencies in their evidence with each other, but more significantly with the scientific evidence, the lawyer said the two elements of the crown’s case were simply irreconcilable.

Burke drew attention to the fact that the solid forensic evidence of the shell casings, the bullets and the trail of blood left by Samuels as he attempted to flee whoever was shooting at him, having been hit in the leg, were not contested by the crown. The forensic evidence was presented unchallenged, despite the fact that it contradicted directly with its own eye witnesses’ evidence

The lawyer said the forensic evidence could not accommodate the eye witness accounts heard in the courtroom an “inconsistency that could not be overcome,” Burke told the three appellant judges as he pointed out that the trial judge had still allowed the case to go forward to the jury. Burke argued that he and the rest of the defence teams, on behalf of their clients, believed that this raised the very real possibility that the crown’s eyewitnesses were never even at the scene they claimed to have witnessed, otherwise they could never have got things so wrong.

Burke also raised what he described as the hidden agenda of the case. He said that the two teenage girls who gave evidence at trial were linked directly to Martin Trench, whose palm print was found on a gold car parked close to where the shell casings were found but who was never interviewed by police as he had left the island soon after the killing.

The lawyer drew attention to the evidence of another witness who had been with Samuels as he lay in the street bleeding. Marcus Manderson gave evidence that Samuels had reportedly told him that “Martin” had taken his gun and shot him with it.

Burke's arguments were echoed by his co-defence colleagues who all argued that the jury should never have been asked to deliberate on such an inconsistent case with so little evidence against the three men.

In defence of the judge’s decision to allow the trial to go to a jury, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards, QC, argued that the evidence of the crown’s witnesses were not so inconsistent that the trial judge was wrong to allow the case to continue and eventually go before a jury.

She said that the ballistic expert had not been able to say with certainty where the shooter was standing and the witnesses had not claimed to see the shooting incident in its entirety as they had hidden behind a wall. The teens had also both stated they heard 13 shots on the night of the killing, which Cheryl could explain why they saw the shooting in a different place. She conceded, however, that only five casings were ever recovered from the scene.

Richards will continue her defence of the judge’s decision tomorrow before the three appellant judges will consider if the case should ever have been heard by a jury. If they agree with the defence that the judge should not have allowed a jury to decide the case, the three men could walk free. If not, the defence teams still have further submissions regarding the judge’s ultimate directions to the jury about the conflicting evidence, which could still result in the appeal being allowed and the men being released.

Sir John Chadwick, President of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, is sitting with Justice E. Mottley and Justice A. Campbell to hear the appeal, which is set down for three days and is being heard in Courtroom two.

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