Court throws out appeal on past firearms case

| 09/08/2010

(CNS): Maricelle Manahan, who was convicted of a firearms offence in August 2007, had his request to appeal his conviction denied by the court on Friday. Justice Cooke queried why Manahan was coming before the court so long after his conviction and after already having had an appeal heard against his sentence. Manahan said that since the sentence appeal another lawyer had performed some pro-bono work for him and said he had grounds for appeal as he had not had a fair trial. Manahan suggested that his first attorney had misled him when he advised him to seek an appeal against his sentence only and now he wanted to appeal the whole conviction.

With the help of Manahan’s original attorney, Nick Dixie, it was established that one crown witness statement had been read into the trial as the person was unavailable to appear in court. Although Dixie had objected during the trial, the court had ruled that the statement could be read and therefore the offender had not had a chance to cross examine the witness.
However, crown counsel pointed out that there were other witnesses in the case and the conviction was based on other evidence.
Justice Cooke told Manahan that he would not grant the appeal for two reasons. Firstly, that the application was far too late as appeals are supposed to be filed with a few weeks of conviction, and secondly, that the issue which Manahan was complaining about had been weighed by a jury.
“The court regards the basis being put forward as questions of fact which the jury was eminently suited to determine. There have been no subsequent legal developments which have given this court any cause for pause in respect of the warrant of a fair trial,” he said.
Following his conviction in 2007 Manahan was given a ten year sentence after being found guilty of possession of a 0.22 calibre Marlin rifle, six rounds of ammunition and a magazine for ammunition, an offence which took place in June 2004. Although the crime took place before the law was changed to introduce the mandatory ten years for gun crimes, Manahan was given the sentence retroactively.
As a result of comments by the trial judge, Justice Henderson, that he deserved a lesser sentence than ten years, Manahan took his case to the court of appeal and Dixie argued on his behalf that he should have been sentenced according to the law as it was when the crime was committed in 2004.
In April 2008, although the Court of Appeal judges agreed with Dixie, based on the fact that Manahan did not plead guilty to the offence the court was satisfied that the sentence itself was appropriate in any event under the old law.
Meanwhile, this year’s August session of the Court of Appeal will begin appeals today (Monday 9 August) against cases tried in the Grand Court over the last year, including convicted murderers Randy Martin and William McLaughlin Martinez, who will appear before the appeal court judges next week.  
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  1. Dennis Smith says:


    “In April 2008, although the Court of Appeal judges agreed with Dixie, based on the fact that Manahan did not plead guilty to the offence the court was satisfied that the sentence itself was appropriate in any event under the old law.”

    Somebody help me out here. I always believed that if you plead guilty your case is over, no more discussion, finished. Whereas if you plead Not Guilty you get a chance to expound on the conditions and circumstances of you case. You argument gets heard.

    Is the court saying that because Manahan pleaded not guilty he got a higher sentence than if he had pleaded guilty?

    Am I missing something here or is the court saying that if you defend yourself you will be punished more than if you don’t?

    If that is the case it feels like intimidate to me.

    • Dirk says:

      Generally if you plead guilty you can get a lower sentence because you save the court, legal department and police time and money. It’s a bit of tit for tat to encourage cooperation and secure convictions. Often you can also plead guilty to a lesser offense in a plea bargain (e.g. aggravated manslaughter rather than second degree murder), which automatically means a shorter range of time for the sentence.

      The sentencing is separate from the conviction, and at sentencing even if the convicted person pleaded guilty he or she may still provide mitigating circumstances and character references that speak to why the sentence should be minimised. The judge takes all of that as well as the plea into consideration before handing down the sentence.

      That being said, murder is an exception to the rule (in Cayman). The automatic mandatory sentence upon being found guilty of murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole, so there is absolutely no incentive for a defendant to plead guilty, even if there is overwhelming evidence of guilt. They bank on the trial being delayed (or charges never being brought in the first place) then hope to get off on a technicality, due to some mistake on the side of the police or prosecution, or due to a sympathetic (or corrupt) jury or juror. As we have heard in the media, this inflexible sentencing goes against fundamental human rights, and if the sentencing guidelines change the pleas in murder cases may end up changing as well.

    • Pauly Cicero says:

      In the US it’s called plea bargaining. In the UK I don’t believe it is practiced as widely. You have the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge or the same charge, each with the understanding that the potential maximum sentence will not be imposed. It’s not quite as you described as you don’t get more time for pleading not guilty, you may get less time by pleading guilty. More of a gamble than intimidation IMO.