Appeal opens on GT murder

| 29/11/2011

(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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