Gun conviction sticks as DNA-based appeal fails

| 30/04/2015 | 10 Comments

(CNS): A young West Bay man wept quietly in the dock Thursday when the appeal court rejected his attempt to have his firearms conviction overturned. Ray Kennedy Smith, who is 21 years old and serving a mandatory ten-year sentence in HMP Northward after he was convicted in November 2013 of possession of an unlicensed handgun, argued that the judge in his case had given too much weight to DNA evidence that had been compared with an FBI database for the probability of a match.

Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Courts, George Town

Smith’s lawyer, Amelia Fosuhene of Stenning and Associates, argued that had the DNA been compared to a database of local men, the level of probability that the DNA on a glove found with the weapon would have been much lower than the 1.4 billion concluded by the expert. She noted that with a smaller gene pool, the possibility of others being a match should have also been considered.

Both the judge in the case and the Court of Appeal agreed that it would have been better to compare DNA samples with local men rather than those held by the American FBI, but because there is no such database here then the probability levels were often compared with US or regional DNA data in order to work out probabilities.

The three Court of Appeal judges said that the trial judge who heard the case without a jury, Justice Charles Quin, had not given too much weight to the DNA but had made it clear that he had considered the forensic evidence along with the other circumstantial evidence in the case.

Refusing leave to appeal, they said that there was a match of partial DNA and therefore Smith could not be excluded, and the judge was careful to say he could not convict him on that alone but had looked at all evidence. The judge said in his ruling that, considering all the evidence and Smith’s failure to answer the charge and give any evidence on his own behalf about the DNA or anything else, he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt he was guilty.

The president of the appeal court said Thursday that in his view, “it was a conclusion the judge was entitled to come to on the whole of the evidence”. He rejected the submission from Smith’s lawyer that the judge had concluded the DNA was an exact match but rather that other evidence together with the DNA was sufficient to convict.

Smith was arrested when he was just 18 years old outside the Inferno nightclub in West Bay. Police officers saw him and two other men acting suspiciously. When they went to investigate, Smith disappeared around the back of the club for a few seconds and came back as the officers approached. He was nervous and sweating profusely and an officer conducted a search at the area where he had gone.

The police officer found a loaded semi-automatic Smith and Wesson, together with a ski mask and gloves. All three men were arrested but only Smith’s DNA could not be eliminated from the partial and mixed DNA found on the gun and from the inside of the glove.

Jailed just over one year ago, Smith still has a long way to go before his release. During the sentencing he was described as a respectful son, a supportive partner in a stable relationship and a good father to his young child. Smith had a steady job and was said to be a hard-working employee but he had fallen into the wrong company and trouble had followed.

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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    They all want to be gangster until they are crying on the stand getting sentenced. No sympathy whatsoever. People forget this a**hole probably had that gun stuck in somebody’s face at some point. He wasn’t crying any tears then.

    • Anonymous says:

      Too true. Too many self-styled bad boys think it’s all a game until they get caught. Unfortunately, the way things are going it’s only a matter of time before RCIPS move it all up a notch and have to use deadly force against one of these clowns. They need to teach these wannabe gangstas the old message, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    There is a database for the population here. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25308516

  3. Anonymous says:

    About eight years ago, the HSA along with the RCIPS were involved in setting up a local DNA database. I remember them going around to local groups, especially the service clubs of which I am a member of one, asking indigenous members to give DNA so that they could distinguish the local DNA. What happened to that initiative and where the hell is my sample that I submitted?????

  4. Anonymous says:

    Seriously? so far every single case of American tourists event happened with people with license to carry a weapon in their home country that forgot the item in their luggage. the caymanian was hiding from police, with a loaded gun, gloves and a sky mask. I wonder if you would have the same opinion if he pointed the gun at you and robbed you…

    • Anonymous says:

      7:29 do you really believe that those weapons were forgotten in their luggage? Think again! I have heard louder noises.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Strange enough, the U.S. Citizens leaving the island with guns and ammo are given a slap on the wrists and the caymanian boy is handed down a ten year sentence, for a gun that was found. What disparity can be drawn between cases!
    Not condoning the actions of one over the other, but where is the balance?

    • Anonymous says:

      As a start I would say intent, if you found a tourist with a gun, ski mask and gloves outside a nightclub at night I would expect them to be treated the same, until they are they fall in the ‘stupid’ category and not ‘criminal’.

      • Anonymous says:

        To the best of my knowledge, you are mistaken, there is a 10 year mandatory sentence and the section reverses the burden of proof, basically against human rights of being innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution BUT sadly the AG and PPM were willing to quickly mane changes to gang legislation but not willing to make the necessary changes to this section and I wonder why the defence lawyers and MLA/lawyers aren’t seeking to amend this atrocity?

        Foreigners must face our laws, ignorance is not an excuse and amend the laws if we find it acceptable for foreigners to bring in ammunition or firearms, in a society that does not allow civilians carrying a weapon.

        Of course we must address the criminal element in our society but we should also strive for justice.

        Suppose someone dropped an unlicensed firearm on you and police arrested you, the law doesn’t allow for intention, so the ‘pardon’ given to these tourists must be based on another law.

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