Jury must acquit, says lawyer

| 15/09/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Islands headlines news, Cayman courts(CNS): The crown’s evidence is insufficient to warrant a conviction in the case against Brandon Leslie-Ebanks and his co-defendants, Osbourne Douglas and Patrick McField, for the murder of Omar Samuels, the jury was told on  Tuesday by Nicholas Rhodes QC, who said, as he made his closing statement, that they must acquit. The trial of the three men for that crime is now complete and the judge in the case, Justice Charles Quin, began his summing up on Wednesday morning. In the final closing statement on Tuesday, Rhodes said the crown’s key witnesses had lied and for reasons that may never be known had chosen to frame his client and his co-defendants.

He said the crown was asking the jury to accept evidence from two eyewitnesses who described the crime in such a fashion at such a time and place that was not supported by the forensic and other evidence. He said the case presented by the crown could never be accepted as sufficient in a democratic society to convict a man for murder.
 
As he made his closing remarks, Rhodes, in alignment with his fellow defence attorneys, Alastair Malcolm QC and Trevor Burke QC, also pointed to the significant inconsistencies in the eye witness accounts given by the two teenagers, whom he accused of being “gangster’s girls who were willing to do their bidding”. The defence attorney not only noted the differences between the girls’ testimony and the rest of the crown’s evidence but also pointed out to the jury that the girls had given very different accounts to the police compared to the stories they told in court.
 
He noted, in contrast, to the consistent account his client had given since his arrest, which had not wavered since last July. The lawyer criticised the police for not immediately following up Leslie-Ebanks’ alibis and phone evidence. He pointed out, however, the dilemma the police and the prosecution had faced once the alleged eyewitnesses turned up.
 
Despite their inconsistencies with other evidence, the police could not afford to ignore them. While forensic and other witness statements may have pointed in the direction of a number of other potential suspects, once the girls identified the three men on trial the police would struggle to bring a case against anyone else, the attorney noted, as these eyewitnesses’ testimonies would threaten those cases.
 
Rhodes said, as unattractive as it was, it was clear the girls had lied; they had evidently lied in the court room under oath and to the police. He said that while one could never be certain why it was they had chosen to lie and frame the defendants, it was still apparent that they had.
 
The attorney pointed to what he said was the honesty of his own client. If he had been the murderer, Rhodes suggested, he would have been able to come up with better false alibis than the crown suggested he had. Rhodes said that, in reality, his client would “have to be a moron” if he had really committed the murder and chose a former criminal and his girlfriend as his alibis. Not only that, Rhodes said, Leslie-Ebanks had put himself at the scene some time before the murder and admitted to seeing the three defendants, all of which, the lawyer said, added up to what had to be an honest account.
 
“The real murderer would distance himself for more than that,” the lawyer noted adding that in both interviews and on the stand, in the court Leslie- Ebanks had never once wavered in his account of his own movements that night.
 
He said his client had given the police his cell phone information and alibis from the very first interview after his arrest but the officers “had washed their hands of it” and never investigated his account or tried to even break his alibi. One year later, he said, the crown had only been able to suggest the alibi witnesses were lying because they were his friends but had not brought any evidence that the alibis were untruthful.
 
Rhodes also noted the concern which the jury and the community should have about the failure of the police to investigate the truth of Leslie-Ebanks’ alibis as it was something that could affect anyone who was arrested. He told the jury that everyone, if they were arrested for a crime that they did not commit and offered an alibi, should at the very least expect that the police had a duty to follow it up and prove or disprove that evidence, not just ignore it, as was the case here.  He reminded the court that Leslie-Ebanks was arrested on the 27 July but the alibi witnesses were not interviewed until some six weeks later.
 
Among the many failings in the crown’s case, Rhodes said, it had completely failed to make any connection at all between the three men in the dock. “The crown has failed to show any association with these three men at all,” he said. No phone records or witnesses had been produced to support the crown’s theory that these men were close associates or friends. The crown had suggested in its case, however, that these three men were so close that they could have been recruited by Patrick McField for a joint enterprise and ordered to commit murder together.
 
Rhodes said his client had made it clear he knew his co-defendants from the neighbourhood where he lived but they were not close associates. Given the evidence presented by the crown and the evidence pointing away from it, the attorney told the jury it no choice and must acquit his client.
 
Following the closing statement from the final QC, the judge told the jury that he would begin summing up the case and direct them on points of law on Wednesday morning. The jury, which has heard evidence from some 28 crown witnesses as well as witnesses for the defence will be sent to deliberate once the judge finishes his directions. The twelve members must return a unanimous verdict to convict in case of murder or a majority to acquit. Although the three men have been tried together, the jury will be expected to examine each defendant separately and delivery a verdict on each one.
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