Judge finds Jeffers guilty

| 23/02/2012

Jeffers.jpg(CNS): Full story — Justice Charles Quin took over four hours on Thursday to read his verdict in which he found 28-year-old Raziel Jeffers guilty of the murder of Marcus Ebanks. The judge said he was satisfied that Jeffers was one of two gunmen who had opened fire on a group of young men as they sat in a West Bay yard in July 2009. Jeffers was also convicted of trying to kill four other young men, including Adryan Powell, who was paralyzed as a result of the multiple gunshots he received on the evening of the shooting. The judge said the evidence given by Powell was clear and consistent and he was satisfied that he had identified Raziel Jeffers as the lead gunman in the joint enterprise. As he handed down the verdict, he urged anyone who knew anything about guns to go to the police.

Jeffers, who was smartly dressed in a white shirt with a blue patterned tie and dark grey trousers and had short hair, remained impassive as the verdict was delivered and made no comment but nodded when the mandatory life sentence for the murder was handed down.

Because the judge was satisfied that Jeffers was part of a joint enterprise to kill on the night in question, he was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Rod Ebanks, Joe Bush, Jose Sanchez and Adryan Powell, who was only 14 at the time of the shooting. In addition, Jeffers was convicted of possession of an unlicensed firearm.

As he read his verdict to the court, Justice Quin pointed to the senseless loss of life and injuries inflicted in the brutal and indiscriminate killing, which took place in the yard of 9 Bonaventure Lane at the home of Joseph Hurlston.

“Another young man is dead in the Cayman Islands, one is in a wheel chair and one is facing a life sentence because of guns,” the judge said, as he implored those in the community who knew anything about people having guns or where guns were hidden to go to the authorities.

In his detailed review of the evidence the judge said that as well as finding Powell’s evidence to be “clear and honest” he also accepted the evidence of Megan Martinez, Jeffers' former girlfriend, whom he described as a forthright witness. Despite some confusion in her evidence and the fact that she had originally lied to the police, he said her descriptions of the firearms that she had seen Jeffers handle were compelling.

“It would take an extraordinary degree of imagination to invent such detailed evidence about the firearms,” he said.

Once she had decided to relate her former boyfriend’s confession to a police officer that she trusted, the judge said, she had been consistent with her evidence. He also found that her reasons for the delay in coming forward plausible and said there was no evidence that her statements had been coerced.

Justice Quin noted that there was supporting evidence for her testimony in the telephone records and he did notthink that the gunshot residue on the packet of cigarette papers found in Jeffers pocket when he was arrested after the shooting got there through transference.

He rejected suggestions by the defence that the police were biased against the defendant or that Powell was telling lies or unable to make a clear identification.  He said it was understandable that the teenager would have been scared to say who had shot him at first given the terrifying, “ruthless and violent” attack that he witnessed and suffered. However, he noted that Powell had revealed who his attacker was just six days after the shooting.

The judge stated that when all of the evidence against Jeffers was taken together, it was very damning. The crown had proved that he did have the means, opportunity and motive as there was evidence before the court of a serious and hostile war between the Birch Tree Hill and Logswood gangs, as Jeffers' intended victim was Jose Sanchez.

“There was evidence before the court that the defendant was intent on hunting down Jose Sanchez," the judge stated. Sanchez was a member of the opposing gang and had also had an affair with Jeffers' former girlfriend while he was in jail.

Ironically, Sanchez had escaped unscathed on the night of the shooting because he had hidden in the house with Joe Bush, who was also unhurt when the gunmen indiscriminately opened fire. Rod Ebanks, Marcus’ brother, sustained  four gunshot wounds but later recovered from those injuries, while his brother, whom, Martinez revealed in her testimony, Jeffers had mistaken for Sanchez, was pronounced dead that night at the Cayman Islands Hospital. Adryan later found out he would be confined to a wheelchair, paralysed from the waist down as a result of the bullet that had entered his spine.

The judge commended the bravery of the witnesses in his verdict.

“I have been impressed by Adryan Powell and Megan Martinez, who had the courage to come forward about this brutal attack,” the judge said, adding that he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Jeffers was one of the gunmen.

Speaking in the wake of the verdict, Superintendent Kurt Walton, the senior investigating officer in the case, echoed the sentiments of the judge about the witnesses.

“For them to come forward to the police and before the court and give their evidence demonstrates the courage that is needed from every single member of the Cayman community if we are ever to rid this country of serious crime and this scourge of gang violence,” Walton stated. “Although Kara will never see her son Marcus Ebanks again in this life, or Tammie see her 15-year-old son Adryan walk again, this at least brings some closure in the sense of justice served to the parents of the victims. This is all they had ever asked.”

Walton added that Adryan will, perhaps, never walk again as a result of the brutality. “Here was a 14-year-old boy in the prime of his life, ready to face life, and struck down in a hail of bullets just because he happened to be hanging out next door talking to his neighbours and friends at the wrong time,” he said, adding that Marcus Ebanks' son would never know his father.

“This verdict reflects the entirety of the evidence which was gathered by the police after a long and methodical investigation. Every officer on this case contributed to the success of this investigation. Finally, the prosecution team was first class, using all available evidence at its disposal,” Walton added.

The second gunman in the shooting, who was referred to in the trial as “Ozzie from Scranton”, has never been charged in connection with the case.

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