Witness seeks help for new life

| 24/10/2013

(CNS): A 49-year-old man who was shot while he was a protected witness in a murder trial says that he has been abandoned by the authorities, despite assisting them to put away a man who was considered a leading player in the criminal underworld. The former witness is now looking for a lawyer willing to help him file suit against government in an effort to try and lead a new life, as he said the police are simply not able to protect those who do the right thing. With no formal witness protection scheme in Cayman and a law that has languished for several years without implementation, the issue remains a major problem for law enforcement.

However, the PPM government has promised to review and implement the justice protection law to create a formal protocol for dealing with sensitive witnesses. With another spike in violent gun-related crime, the matter of witness protection and the complexities associated with it in a small jurisdiction have returned to the top of the authorities’ agenda. During the recent budget debate the premier pointed to plans to review and then implement the relevant law, which would create a formal scheme and programme to deal with witnesses who are at risk.

While government has invested millions of dollars in new crime fighting and evidence technology, cases continue to depend on eye witness testimony. But witnesses remain reluctant to come forward as a result of reprisals and the widespread perception, rightly or wrongly, in the community that people who talk to the police put their lives on the line. As police do their best to encourage witnesses to come forward, the experiences of many who do are rarely pleasant.

Although police management refused to comment on any specific witness case, past or present, a spokesperson confirmed that while the justice protection law has not yet been implemented, the RCIPS currently follows the protocols set out in the draft legislation, which is a public document. This means that witnesses who go intoa protection programme must leave the island for good, never to return, and to cut ties with friends and family in Cayman that are not on the programme. Those who break the strict conditions are removed from the protection programme.

However, Fernando Martin, who has decided to break his silence about his treatment, said he was first persuaded to give evidence in the case against two men for the fatal shooting of Joe Williams in 2003 but there was no system in place to send witnesses overseas.

As a result he remained in Cayman in the lead up to the trial and he was re-housed at the Cayman Islander Hotel, as it was known then. But before he made it to the witness box, the protection he was promised failed and he became a victim. Martin received multiple gunshot wounds at the hotel on the night of 17 August when he opened his hotel room door to a gunman.

Despite the injuries, he survived and still took to the witness box for the trial, in which the men were ultimately acquitted.

Following that murder trial, Martin then agreed to give evidence against the man he said had tried to kill him. Sheldon Brown was one of the RCIPS’ most wanted suspects and officers were keen for Martin to help them send him to jail. As a result, Martin was kept on the witness protection programme, such as it was at the time, which boiled down to government merely paying Martin’s rent and a subsistence allowance.

Brown was ultimately found guilty, and despite his continued denial that he was the gunman, he was convicted and jailed for 22 years in 2006. Thereafter, the police continued to pay for Martin to be housed locally in what was supposed to be in a safe location.

However, with a change in policy in 2010, Martin was sent overseas to Cuba. Martin claims that the local authorities did not deal with the Cuban authorities to enable him to lawfully stay there or work so he was forced to return to address his immigration status, making a further mockery of the protection he said he was meant to receive. Then at some point, he said, the RCIPS pulled the financing for his protection altogether and left him to his fate.

“They told me they were proud of me for coming forward and going through the trials and doing what I did but then they just left me out to hang,” he said. “They don’t care they can’t protect me and I have nowhere to turn.”

Increasingly suffering from the impact of his injuries but unable to find work, not least, he said, because employers have told him he is too much of a liability and an unwanted target on their premises, he is also in need of an operation to help him walk.

Given the various inconsistency in his treatment, Martin believes that now he has been abandoned, if the authorities won’t reconsider relocating him overseas, the only remaining course of redress for him will be through a successful law suit, but he has no money to pay up front legal fees and is hoping a human rights legal expert will consider helping him make a claim.

One local legal defence attorney told CNS that, depending on the circumstances of his overall treatment and the paper trail and evidence the fact that he was shot while in the protection of the authorities is an indication of negligence and liability.

Martin said he believes that the local authorities are not able to protect people locally and that he should be relocated because, in the end, he can only be sure he will be safe overseas. He said he wants to permanently relocate and has somewhere to go but he needs financial assistance to do that and help with medical expenses to deal with his injuries.

While the police have to be very wary when it comes to giving financial assistance to witnesses, as it can be seen as an inducement and undermine cases in court, it is normal for public authorities to assist with the cost of witness relocation. At present, although the police refuse to confirm who is currently under a witness protection programme, CNS is aware of several critical witnesses who are being supported financially for their assistance in murder cases.

For a number of reasons it appears that Martin has been abandoned, and whatever the truth of those reasons, there is no denying that he was instrumental in securing a major conviction. Furthermore, his case demonstrates the inconsistencies surrounding the treatment of witnesses. It also serves to remind government of the need to address how those who put their own lives on the line to help the authorities remove the most dangerous criminals from the streets are treated, regardless of who those individuals are or what their backgrounds may have been.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Right to life

    Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

    —Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  2. Anonymous says:

    Check this site; he might want to file a complaint. What happened to him is unspeakable.



  3. Anonymous says:

    People in Cayman should think very carefully before becoming a snitch

  4. noname says:

    This story is very real, I know this man and I have to say that the RCIP and witness protection program should be ashamed of themselves for allowing someone that put his life in danger to help put a criminal behind bars be neglected in such a way. Fernando, take all the legal action that you can against them.

    How can the RCIP expect civilians to assist in inquiries and come forward with crucial information when this is how they treat them? The police can barely protect themselves much less innocent people trying to do the right thing on this small island.

    Wake up now! Here is a true story of a man shot and left for dead for assisting the police in a very big murder investigation. What does he get in return? A few weeks in a hospital bed, a fly out to Cuba for a while and bam, thats it, left to fend for himselves when anyone at any time can avenge the man he put behind bars!

    • Anonymous says:

      Ashamed is not the right word- they should be held responsible. This person should contact the International Human rights commission, at least.  It looks like he has been through a lot, but if he let those who are responsible to get away with it, he had and is suffering in vain.

  5. Kadafe says:

    I now realize my earlier comment is not as clear as I thought it was. Just for the record my comment was directed to the RCIPS not the witness..

  6. Knot S Smart says:

    In life we make choices of who we will be associated with and who do we blame for the end result? Government of course…

    Are we sure that this witness was just an innocent bystander? If not then whose choice was it for him to be associated with the crininal element? Was it the government?

    Just wondering…

  7. Anny Omis says:

    This is a tough one, as many giving testimony in these events are also in the life. You don’t get many church ladies testifying against gang bangers. So what country would be willing to take them? Not the US, i don’t know about Canada, but I doubt it. Jamaica is still pissed at us over the visa thing, and Honduras is a white hot mess.

  8. Kadafe says:

    Good luck getting any assistance now. I think we would say dog yam ya suppa! Lol

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wow, if this story is real, it is worth of a documentary or a movie. If this person decides to proceed with a legal action, I will contribute what I can.

    • Knot S Smart says:

      I have a bridge to Miami that I am trying to sell.

      Would you like to buy it?

      • Anonymous says:

        Mac would have spent $3m on fees to see if we could get a loan to buy it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I know the pain , stress, agony and frustration you all fell and if no one else burn in hell.. Those people in the Cayman Island Government / RCIP will….  I have been down that road and i'm very much aware of the case of Mr. Martin.. I was a serving Police officer at the time and actually was involve in that case.. The way they treated that young man can only be describe as toilet tissue down the toilet and it's a national disgrace and one that need to be seriously revisited. The RCIP/ Cayman Islands Government did the same thing to me.. They send me overseas as a witness and almost leave me dead.. My family and I lost every thing we had including our home that we worked hard and build. After 7 years I'm still fighting those son of a bitches in Court and a cost of thousands of dollars. One of the former Commissioner of Police comment was that they should send witnesses over seas with the hope they will vanish away.  Crime will never end in Cayman with this kind of mentality and I will be more than will to give a sworn statement for Mr. Martin for him to get the justice he deserve. Some segment of the society is riddle with corruption and as long as those folks keep walking aroundwith their head buired in the sand and living in a sense of denial its just a matter of who is next… So much to be said but just waiting on the right time.        I wish people could be treated not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

  11. Anonymous says:

     I wonder if Helen Kilpatrick has an opinion on this?

    • Anon says:

      Can't you bring yourself to give her her rightful title of Her Excellency? She IS the Governor of The Cayman Islands! 

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is absolutely disgraceful. 

  13. Anonymous says:

    This unfortunately is the main reason witnesses do not assist the Police in most matters and is a problem that could be remedied quite quickly, easily and without too much expense.  First of all the entire Police force needs to be cleaned up and actually attempt to restore trust in the force.  Then if Police want the public to identify someone then it MUST be done very confidentially and behind a one-way glass so the suspects cannot see who is identifying them.  I had the Police bring a suspect to my house for me to identify if he was the one who broke into my home.  Yes, REALLY.  The jurors should also not be in the public eye much less in full view of the suspects in court.  They should be behind a one way glass so they too do not become victims when they find someone guilty.  This place is way too small with too many connections for anyone to be safe from retaliation when they try to do the right thing and it will only get worse until we get a completely respectable Police Force, protection for witnesses and stricter laws to put criminals away and with the treatment criminals deserve, not be put up in a recreational facility where they have more than they do in the free world. Thank you for doing the right thing, sir and I hope you will get the long overdue protection you deserve.

    • Anonymous says:

      So how do we think a predominantly Caymanian police service will work out?

      Certainly, the RCIPS needs a fundamental change to its recruitment and training programme, but taking more individuals from a small community to police themselves is a recipe for disaster.

      If you think that the RCIPS is impotent when it comes to protecting witnesses now, you wait until bobo's mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, aunt or uncle gets to wear a uniform and shares confidential police information with all and sundry.

      It goes on now, just how do you think you will cope in the future?

      • Anonymous says:

        But wait? Do we want our police service to be ALL expats and no locals? Sounds like that is what you are saying. THAT my friend is a recipe for disaster! You seem to be insinuating that local cops cannot make sound decisions and do not have the balls to arrest their own. The police service NEEDS a reform; however, that is not the solution. 


        Signed: recently EX police officer

        • Anonymous says:

          Well recent Ex Police Officer, you will know better than most the reluctance of local officers to firmly deal with their own community. If they are so effective, why are we in the crap we're in, after all most of the local cops grew up alongside the scum bags and know damn well who they are?

          No, we don't want all expat officers, but until all Caymanian officers attend a proper police training college instead of a shack with a few climbing frames, then those who are in the service for the wrong reasons will not be weeded out. Higher standards of fitness and knowledge of all laws that they are required to enforce may also be a good idea, you know, from a professional viewpoint.

          I am also a former law enforcement officer of 25 years service and my experience of local police officers is less than positive. I know many former officers employed by the RCIPS and know that sexism, bigitory, petty politics, empire building and drunkeness are par for the course. 

          Until there is a huge injection of professionalism and integrity pumped into local officers, there will be only one alternative and that's to employ more highly trained officers from outside of the Caribbean catchment area. Then it might just rub off and local cops may well start to work as a unified team.


        • Anonymous says:

          Yep. That's what I am saying.

      • Anonymous says:

        With 80 percent of the population being expats or first generation cayman status (originally from somewhere else) – leads me to the conclusion that the opposite is true, in other words that the foreign police officers might not want to arrest one of their own nationality.

      • Anonymous says:

        The solution ….. two tired policing. The serious stuff is dealt with by people from outside of the jurisdiction. The local police deal with the minor stuff. I think this is successfully in France.


  14. Anonymous says:

    I too was a witness but I was not giving any of those I had to fly away I my own now I'm overstayed  in the usa and can't even work I can't do nothing and the rcips was  pressuring me to testify  and thier talk was"if you scared we can take care of you " my life has messed up and  I'm living like a squatters and I recommend anyone not to assist the police in anyway due to the fact there ate insiders to revile information about you and put your life at risk now thanks to them I am in a next man country but can't work it nothing and I cannot return because I dot know what can happen and I dot want to find out  I hope my life and anyone life that has been damage by doin the right thing can be rectify soon is a shame doing the right thing is doing wrong for your own self . If I should tell you my story it would never end lawyers fees and what not and they not once consider during the process if I'm am ok they only care about their self 

  15. Anonymous says:

    Before all the name calling and de-crying the government please remember you all have only heard/read one side of this story. Be sure brain is engaged before opening mouth otherwise many times you will have to remove foot from mouth.

    • Anonymous says:

      Having tried to help the authorities once and them choosing to do nothing, but only after disclosing their source to the criminals, I have every confidence in my position on this.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This is what I have been saying for a long time. The police are unwilling or unable to protect the people and don't want the people to protect themselves.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Help this man now. shame on everyone involved. This is a good opportunity to get it right v

    • Anonymous says:

      The PPM promised?? LAWDDD HAVE MERCY! Their word has no integrity so DO NOT hold your breath!

    • Anonymous says:

      Get "up to $50,000" for capture and conviction! So now you just enjoy that whole $5 you get when they're done, 8 years later! Yuhhear?

  18. Anonymous says:

    caymankind government style ! 

    • Anonymous says:

      What do you people insist on using "Caymankind" as a word of insult?

  19. Anonymous says:

    This is a sad story and a good example of why people won't come forward with information.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Why would anyone assist in taking down the gangs and criminals when it is your own death sentence ? Who knows this best? The criminals. Rise in crime an accident or part of a 4 year cycle? Suspect not.

    • Anonymous says:

      So what is your solution?

      • Anonymous says:

        06.57..that has got to rate as the most stupid question of all time.

        The solution is obvious, implement a proper, well thought out and truly protective custody programme. Sorry, I could not make the words any smaller for you.

        • Anonymous says:

          and, MR. pom…….pous ass……hole, are you willing to pay for it?  (I have returned the favor by cutting words in half for easier digestion)  If you were a big enough person, you wouldn't have the need to talk down to anyone.

          And BTW. you still used some mighty big words there pardner.

          • Anonymous says:

            And Mr Total Loser, why would I pay for something that is the responsibility of the LA, Police and Judiciary to resolve? Maybe you should question their pompous a$$es about why the idiots you elected cannot do their jobs and protect Caymanians? Oh-that would not be fair right? ASk difficutl questions of those responsible? And I am very big by the way, just cannot abide abundant stupidity.

        • Anonymous says:

          you are an einsteinonian genious!!! so simple and elegant!!!  i give the job to you.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thanks very much, however I already have a good job and there are people who are paid to do this already, the MLA's…so why aren't they?

      • Anonymous says:

        Police sweet talk + Assist popo + criminal found guilty or aquitted + with or without police protection = dead man


        Solution – Do not assist if you care for your own life.  

        • Anonymous says:

          soooooo….. business as usual?  it is just druggies killing druggies after all.

        • snoop kitty katt says:

          Sweet, I is gonna use this as lyrics to my next rap song. Respect.

      • Anonymous says:

        Seriously trollers and down thumbers; what is the solution?

      • Anonymous says:

        Anonimity of witnesses and competent policing and prosecution.

  21. Anonymous says: