Martin rejects jury for judge alone trial

| 25/11/2009

(CNS): Justice Charles Quin will now be the sole person who will weigh the evidence in the case against Randy Martin, the man charged with murdering Sabrina Schirn in March of this year, following the HMP Northward inmate’s  last minute request for a judge alone trial. As proceedings began in the murder trial on Tuesday morning in the Cayman Islands Grand Court, Martin’s defence team filed a verbal submission  to the judge to allow their client to forego his right to a jury as he did not believe he would receive a fair trial.

Adam King, of Samson McGrath and junior council for the defence, told the judge that, given the notoriety of the case coupled with rumours which had come to his client’s attention, Martin’s, who has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, was requesting the last minute change.

Although the defence is generally expected to notify the court of its decision to be tried by a jury or a judge three weeks before the start of the trial, the law allows for extenuating circumstances. King put the case that his client had become increasingly anxious about how fair a jury trial would be for him as he believed most Caymanians would be very familiar with the case or those involved in it. He also explained that, following increasing rumours that had come to him in the last few weeks about how a jury may decide in the case and then getting sight of the jury pool on the morning of the trial, he said his client had become certain that he would not get a fair hearing.

King noted that, while it was something of a surprise to the court, no one really suffered as a result of the decision being late.

Solicitor General Cheryl Richards, who is prosecuting the case with Kirsty-Ann Gunn, said that although the application was late, provided counsel justified their reasons to the judge under the relevant law, the prosecution would not object. Richards said that the prosecution would not wish to stand in the way of a defendant not feeling he would get a fair trial.

After a brief discussion Justice Quin agreed to the last minute switch and sent word to have the jury dismissed. Following the submission, Martin’s lead counsel, David Howard Evans QC from the UK, asked for an adjournment so he could review late evidence that had recently been submitted by the prosecution.

The case was adjourned to 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon, when the crown will open its case against Martin, who is currently serving a seven year sentence at Northward. The trial is scheduled for over three weeks and the prosecution has more than 60 witnesses on its list.

The body of 21-year old Schirn was discovered in the High Rock area of East End in bush land,  some five days after she was reported missing, by her friends and family on the 17 March. A local farmer had discovered the car she had last been seen driving a few days before about a mile or so away from where the body was eventually found.  The case caused considerable controversy in the local community, not only because of the brutal nature of the crime but the police were also criticised for the way the investigation into Schirn’s disappearance was handled. The prison service also came under fire when it became clear Schirn’s body was found very close to the prison agricultural facility, Wilderness Farm.

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