No verdict in Mac case

| 08/10/2014

(CNS): After three hours of deliberation on Wednesday afternoon the jury trying the case against McKeeva Bush had not reached a verdict and as a result the judge directed them to return to the court tomorrow morning to continue deliberating. Justice Michael Mettyear warned the jurors they could not discuss the case overnight in small groups and must start again Thursday morning at 10am. During his summing up on Wednesday, the judge had emphasised the point that the case was not a moral one and regardless of how they felt about the gambling, and said it was “a court of law not a court of morals”, as he began his directions.

The judge was careful to point out to the jury that even if they found his conduct reprehensible that would not justify his conviction and it was the criminal allegations against him that they had to decide. He pointed out that the case against him was about a criminal breach of his duty as a public official.

“It maybe that you will be, at the very least, surprised at his conduct,”  he said, adding that the members of the jury may not expect the country’s premier to be spending hours and hours on slot machines when travelling overseas on the country’s business.

“You may be disappointed, even saddened by the conduct … you may even feel it is reprehensible but it won’t justify you convicting him,” he warned.

The judge explained that the jury had to find Bush guilty of the criminal allegations of breach of trust and misconduct to convict him. He said the charges of misconduct and abuse of office required a serious breach of the duty a senior public officer, such as the premier, has to the public, for the crime to be made out. The judge told the jury that the former premier had to have seriously abused his power or responsibility and that duty which he owed to the people to be found guilty of any of the offences.

He said the crown alleged that Bush had a duty not to abuse his CIG card which had been entrusted to him to use on behalf of the public and not for his own benefit. The prosecution said that Bush used the card as a line of credit, mostly for gambling, and with the goal of his own personal enrichment. The crown argued that such conduct was not only wrong but Bush must have known it was wrong, regardless of whether or not there was a written policy.

The judge pointed out, however, that the defence had argued that Bush did not have a duty where the card was concerned. The defence team lawyer had argued there was no formal policy or written rule regarding its personal use and the only rule regarding the card was that if you used it for anything other than government business you must pay it back. The defence said that whatever Bush did with the cash in such circumstances was a private matter.

The judge warned the jury about making too much of the conspiracy theory and the allegations by the defence that the charges were a political witch hunt because if they found that Bush was guilty of misconduct as a result of the use of his credit card in casinos, what the governorat the time, Duncan Taylor, said or did not say two and a half years later was irrelevant to the actual case.

However, Justice Mettyear said the governor’s behaviour was relevant in the jury’s consideration of what Bush had said to senior civil servants and others in connection with the allegations. If he believed he was the victim of a witch hunt, it could have influenced his decision about what he said in public and why he had not taken part in the police interview or any lies the jury believe he may have told over the use of the cash he withdrew from casinos.

The judge noted that Taylor had not been present to defend himself or explain his motivation. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson had denied that the case was politically motivated or that he had any part in any conspiracy to deliberately bring Bush down for political reasons.

Justice Mettyear said it was possible that the governor genuinely believed the premier to be corrupt and that this was detrimental to the Cayman Islands, which was why he said the things he did, especially as he was responsible for good governance. However, the judge said the jury may consider that the former governor’s behaviour fell short of what would be expected of a man in his position.

He pointed to the manipulation of the press and comments about the investigation which he described as unacceptable. The governor, the judge said, did not demonstrate the “restraint, detachment and independence” that would have been expected.

The issue of dishonesty was also noted by the judge and as he concluded his directions. He said the jury must ask themselves about the allegations of dishonesty and what was meant by the handing over of blank cheques and the fact that Bush stopped using the card for cash advances after the formal written policy was circulated prohibiting personal use.

It had taken the judge less than three hours to sum up the crown’s case against the former premier Wednesday morning after a four week trial. The jury was sent out to consider their verdict at 12:55pm after Justice Mettyear gave them instructions on the law and summarized the evidence from witnesses as well as the relevant documentation. 

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Category: Crime

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