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Witness dropped from police protection

| 18/08/2016
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands courthouse, George Town

(CNS): A crown witness whose evidence was fundamental to three convictions against a local man for murder and manslaughter has been dropped from the witness protection programme and has accused the police of supplying her with drugs in order to secure her testimony, the Court of Appeal heard Thursday. In three separate trials the prosecution witness claimed that Raziel Jeffers (32) had confessed to killing Marcus Ebanks in 2009 and Damion Ming in 2010 in gang related killings, and that he had organized the robbery in which Ecuadorian numbers man, Marcos Duran, was shot dead also in 2010. All the murders happened in West Bay.

Megan Martinez, Jeffers’ ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, gave evidence in the three trials, which was described by crown prosecutor Andrew Radcliffe QC as critical in the case relating to Duran’s murder and central to the other two cases in securing convictions against Jeffers. The West Bay man is currently serving two life sentences and a twenty-year term for manslaughter.

But the court heard that in preparation for his appeal in the manslaughter case, Jeffers had learned that Martinez was dropped from the witness protection programme last summer and had made allegations that the police officers and other officials dealing with her had been supplying her with drugs. She had also alleged that they were instructing her not to say certain things at trial that could undermine the crown’s case.

The court heard that an independent investigation into the allegations had been conducted by officers from the Bermuda Police Service, who found that the things Martinez was told not to say related to instructions that she could not talk about any of the other cases in each of the separate trials she appeared in. But Radcliffe told the court that the issues relating to the drug allegations remain.

He also confirmed that Martinez had been dropped from the witness protection programme in 2015. Although the details were not specified in court, CNS has seen correspondence indicating that the protection was withdrawn on the basis of her conduct, breaching the conditions in the MOU signed by protected witnesses, damaging the property she was moved to and, crucially, for dishonesty.

Appearing unrepresented on Thursday in an application to adjourn his appeal in order for full disclosure to be completed in relation to the key witness, Jeffers told the appeal court panel that he has also learned that in 2011, during the course of his trials, Martinez had been temporarily dropped from the programme. He said he had not been given any details about the conduct which led to her losing protection at that point and claimed it could have been crucial to his defence.

During Thursday’s hearing it became apparent that all the parties were considering the information as new evidence, though no formal application has yet been made. Jeffers is now seeking to retain new legal representation for the appeal against the manslaughter conviction, which has been scheduled for the Court of Appeal’s November session.

The allegations made by Martinez, the findings of the Bermuda enquiry regarding the police supplying drugs, Martinez’ own conduct and her departure from the witness protection programme are all expected to be central to Jeffers’ appeal.

Radcliffe and the appeal panel also noted that Jeffers’ two murder convictions could also be impacted, even though those convictions have already been heard and dismissed.

The crown lawyer admitted that the issues raised “profound questions” over the credibility of Martinez and the honesty of her evidence. Radcliffe accepted that if Martinez’ “credibility is shot”, it would have a major impact on the case relating to the killing of Duran because when the judge summed up the case for the jury in that 2014 trial, he made it clear that they had to be sure they believed Martinez’ evidence.

The details of Martinez’ allegations were not spelt out in court but correspondence that CNS has seen shows she has accused her RCIPS handlers of supplying her with drugs and signalled an intention to take legal action against them. She has accused them of endangering her life and making false promises to secure her testimony. She claims when she was still very young, vulnerable and in a fragile state, the police manipulated her and caused her significant psychological trauma.

Jeffers has reportedly been served with the findings of the Bermuda police enquiry, and although Radcliff made it clear that the drug issue remains unresolved, the RCIPS has not commented on the allegations against its officers.

CNS contacted the police about the status of the officers that have been accused of supplying Martinez with drugs but a spokesperson said that they were unable to comment on the issues while the case remained in the courts.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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