Attempted murder charges dropped against three men
Three Bermudian men accused of attempted murder and conspiring to murder a second, unknown person with a firearm had the charges dismissed yesterday.
Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman, after hearing extensive legal arguments, ruled there was insufficient evidence to go to the jury for deliberations on the two counts.
The question now is whether or not the indictment could be amended to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm. The principles involved were told to consider their arguments overnight on whether or not it is possible to amend the indictment based on law.
Several precedents were cited in court during the proceedings that a new charge cannot be implemented based on cases the court has ruled on already where this issue arose.
Jahkeil Samuels, 27, Jamin Saltus, 23, and Ronniko Burchall, 22, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a man, conspiring to murder a second, unknown person, and using a firearm to commit an indictable offence.
A fourth defendant, Alex Vanderpool, 22, denied a charge of handling a firearm.
The trial stems from the shooting of a Pembroke man who was shot in the buttock when he stepped out from a party to urinate in February last year.
The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, gave evidence on the first day of the trial last month.
He testified that when he saw a masked man he “didn’t stop to look”. “I just turned and ran in the opposite direction, towards North Shore Road,” he said.
The incident occurred outside a house on Mission Lane at about 1am.
The victim also said he didn’t realise that he was injured until he noticed that he was bleeding and that he heard four gunshots behind him. The lead prosecution witness could only provide vague answers when asked to describe the gunman.
But he insisted the shooter could not have been defendant Ronniko Burchall. Under cross examination by Mr Burchall’s lawyer Craig Attridge, he told the jury he was a close friend of the accused, before adding: “I could see from his frame that it wasn’t him.”
When Justice Hellman returned after considering the submissions he said he will give the reasons for his ruling at a later date. But he said: “No reasonable jury could rule on whether the defendants conspired or attempted to murder the victim.”
On the question of amending the charges defence lawyer Charles Richardson said: “The language of the statute is the gatekeeper of what can be amended.” He was of the opinion that based on the precedent set by ruling on the case of Gardener and Durrant, in addition to other precedents, the indictment “cannot be amended”.
Justice Hellman advised both the defence and the Crown to “think through what happens next” overnight.
Mr Attridge said that based on the very fact that the victim was shot in the buttock, any move to amend the ruling would be “theoretically possible but logically implausible”.
Mr Richardson and lawyer Elizabeth Christopher appear for Mr Vanderpool and Marc Daniels appears for Mr Samuels. Crown counsel Carrington Mahoney is lead prosecutor on this case assisted by Larissa Burgess.
The trial started on May 6 and is now in its sixth week. Legal submissions will continue in the Supreme Court when the case resumes at 9.30am in the absence of the jury. The jury is scheduled to return at 3pm this afternoon.