Murder cases go to appeal

| 03/08/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): Two high profile murder cases are due to appear before the Court of Appeal this month. Randy Martin (left), who was convicted of murdering Sabrina Schirn (21) in January of this year, and William Martinez McLaughlin, who was convicted last year of murdering Brian Rankine Carter (20), have both appealed their convictions and their cases will be heard in this month’s session of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal. Martin was convicted following a judge alone trial before Justice Charles Quin and Martinez was convicted by a jury before Justice Alex Henderson. Martinez’ case is set down before the appellant judges on Tuesday 17 August and Martin’s on Friday 20 August.

Following his conviction on 20 July 2009, the lead detective on the case, Peter Kennett, said Martinez had been “convicted on significant and irrefutable evidence”.  The murder occurred in McField Lane, George Town, on 16 May 2008 when the naked and mutilated body of Rankine was discovered in a parking lot. According to the pathologist’s testimony, the murderer had administered 48 injuries to the victim with a machete and something akin to an ice-pick.
The murder weapon was never recovered. However, the Crown put together a case based on forensic evidence and witness testimony from Jason Hinds, who was with McLaughlin on the night of the murder and who has been charged with accessory after the fact.
Martin was convicted of murdering Schirn at the prison farm in East End in March 2009 on the basis of circumstantial and forensic evidence, including DNA and telephone records. In his ruling Justice Quin said the defendant’s explanations when giving his evidence in chief were “wholly implausible and dishonest”.
The body of 21-year old Schirn was discovered in the High Rock area of East End in bush land by her friends and family on the 17 March, some five days after she was reported missing. 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, and a prisoner was the chief suspect. The farm was later closed by the authorities.
Currently the men can only appeal against conviction, but in 2012 once the country’s Bill of Rights is implemented, if their convictions are found to be safe, the two men as well as all of Cayman’s convicted murderers will have the opportunity to appeal their sentences.
Currently all defendants found guilty of murder are given a mandatory life sentence. However, the Bill of Rights ushers in the concept of a tariff, which means those currently serving life sentences for murder will be able to apply to the court for a specific sentence definition of life and potentially have a date of release.
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