Missing evidence leads to quashed drug conviction

| 03/07/2012

court good.jpg(CNS): A Grand Court judge overturned a conviction for drug dealing on Friday morning as a result of missing evidence, among other things. Eduardo Swaby-Gutierrez was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment last October after a magistrate had found him guilty of possessing 21 grams of cocaine with intent to supply.  However, that conviction was quashed following Friday’s appeal hearing and changed to a lesser charge of possession. Swaby was given a new sentence of seven months, which amounted to the time he had already served since being convicted and the prisoner walked free from the courts. According to Swaby’s defence lawyer, the magistrate had relied on evidence that did not exist to convict him. 

During the Summary Court trial the chief magistrate, Margaret Ramsey Hale, had depended on particles of cocaine to convict Swaby of dealing. These particles were, however, never submitted for analysis or actually handed into the court as evidence. Local attorney Peter Polack, who represented Swaby in the hearing, submitted fifteen grounds of appeal, eight of which were conceded by the prosecution before the start of the appeal.

Justice Alex Henderson said that this was only the second time he had seen so many grounds of appeal on a case. Despite the number, the decision turned on the reliance placed by the former magistrate on the two items referred to in her judgment as “particles of cocaine”, which Polack noted were never submitted for analysis by the police.

Swaby and another person were arrested on 29 December 2009 after a police raid at his place of work in West Bay. The officers searched a back room, used to store stock, and were said to have found small particles of what appeared to be cocaine on a table, along with a scale, foil paper and a knife, on which police said were visible traces of the drug. Officers also found cocaine in Swaby’s truck, which at trial he said he had not used that day.

Swaby had claimed to have lent the truck to his friend. This friend had told the court in his testimony during the summary trial that while he borrowed the truck he had picked up a confessed crack addict. The addict also gave evidence and told the court that he had stolen drugs that day and said he believed he may have left the cocaine in the truck. The magistrate, had rejected all of this evidence, stating that it was unconvincing, and convicted Swaby of dealing.

However, the lead officer in the case never testified at the trial and no notes ofthe search made by her were available. No one at trial sought to raise the issue with the magistrate that the evidence of cocaine particles had not actually been submitted or included in the original charges. The whereabouts of the missing evidence has never been revealed, the defence attorney noted.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I cant take this crap -i going back to Cuba!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This situation should be a wake up call to the Governor and the leadership of the RCIP because this is flat out unacceptable. The crime and graft or incompetence that was behind this disaster need to be addressed. I don't care where the people involved are from they should be dumped and/or sent to jail. 

  3. CHECHE says:

    Nobody is ever held accountable for anything! There must be a protocol in place on dealing with evidence- I hope.

    "Oh, you got a a lil' dust on ya! Lemme jus' use this lint roller rub that off fa ya! Oh crap, that was the evidence? Yeah well they'll never find out wha happened to it anyhow."

  4. Anonymous says:

    uh-oh spaghettioes…..

  5. Cayman Empress says:

    When it comes to the RCIPS nothing surprises me! They screw up cases all the time and that has been going on for a very long time not to mention they are the best paid in Law Enfourcement! Cayman is looking so bad in the eyes of the World!

    • Anonymous says:

      How did this ever getto trial, much less a conviction at summary court in the first instance?

  6. Anonymous says:

    2 words.  Third world.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Huh? Something about his story stinks and it ain’t the stink of incompetence

  8. Anonymous says:

    So many failures so much money spent yet not one single solitary person is ever held responsible for their actions while our UK lords are in full control had it been anyone else i can assure you the outcome would be totally different local Police officer Rabe Welcome found that out the hard way!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Is there not a manual and or a checklist available to the RCIP on how to handle a crime scene.  Or do they just watch the movie Superbad in the training room?

    • Anonymous says:

      What would it take for the bank to call in a squad car, whenever they are doing a money pick up? It should'nt cost them a dime. The police comes free of charge, they are there to protect the people. The commissioner ask for 45 million dollars a year to opperate, and the elected government approves the funds.

  10. jsftbhaedrg says:

    i dont even know where to start here…..way to go.

  11. Anonymousey says:

    Wrongly convicted or drugs disapeared in thin air ! hum, hum. Either way this is not a thumbs up for the RCIPS.

  12. Dat Jugs Man says:

    Well i know one thing they can't blamethe " Caymanians" for this one because it simply ain't none left in the RCIPS. As usual no one will be held accountable for this! Lets wait and see who gets fired?

    • Anonymous says:

      But were there in 2009?

    • Anonymous says:

      So all those Caymanians sitting in the Caymanian police cars and the Caymanian police buildings are just pretending to be real police?  That explains so much.

      • Angel of truth says:

        I can see you are not from here ,can you not tell a Caymanian from most other persons on this island?.

        Stop talking about Caymanians if you cant tell who they are, i can tell most Caymanians from expats, once again stop talking about people who you do not know.

  13. Raffaelle says:

    What Joke i hope that recovered CNB money do not end up in the same evidence locker as these drugs did our we could have the seem problem. But wait a minute ya There is no corruption in the RCIPS !