Two cleared of fatal stabbing on appeal

NASSAU-The Court of Appeal has reversed the convictions of two men accused of the fatal stabbing of Cyril Cartwright in Nassau Village in 2016.

The panel unanimously acquitted Sean McPhee, 22, and Jordon Ellis, 19, and did not order retrials after finding that the trial judge wrongly admitted key evidence.

A jury convicted McPhee of Cartwright’s murder and found Ellis guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. McPhee received a 28-year sentence for murder and Ellis was sentenced to 14 years for manslaughter.

The only evidence linking the men came from the statement of Devon Sands. Although Sands did not testify, the trial judge allowed his witness statement into evidence.

However, the appellate tribunal said the trial judge made an error when he did this.

In his statement, Sands claimed that he, McPhee and Ellis were beating up Cartwright. Sands claimed that he withdrew from the fight and McPhee stabbed Cartwright, who ran. That’s when, according to Sands, McPhee and Ellis chased Cartwright. When they caught him, Ellis held Cartwright as McPhee stabbed him a second time.

However, when the case came to trial in 2017 prosecutors couldn’t find Sands. As a result, they applied to have his statement entered under Section 66 of the Evidence Act. This provision allows prosecutors to enter the statements of witnesses once the court is satisfied that “all reasonable steps” to locate the witness are exhausted.

The Court found that this did not happen, rendering the trial unfair.

The judgment said that Sands’ involvement in the attack showed that he had an “interest to serve.” Thus, “the inability of the appellants to be able to confront him was highly prejudicial in the circumstances of this case.”

Steps taken

At the trial, Corporal Moses Curry said that he learned that Sands’ last known address was a food store. However, Curry later located Sands’ mother, who told him that her son had moved to Abaco.

After obtaining an address and phone contact for Sands’ relatives in Abaco, Curry sent this information to the police stations in Marsh Harbour And Treasure Cay.

Still, the officers couldn’t find him.

The Court said it appeared that Sands was evading the officers. However, this did not remove the Crown’s responsibility of taking all reasonable steps.

The court said, “The Crown, however, has the same resources available to them which they normally utilise to locate criminals and suspects who are wanted by the police.”

The Court noted that officers from Abaco did not testify about their efforts to locate Sands.

Public defender Stanley Rolle represented the men. Terry Archer appeared for the Crown.