Appeal court hears evidence against convicted murderers was 'overwhelming'
Prosecutors yesterday asked the Court of Appeal to uphold the conviction on two half-siblings jailed for the 2006 murder of 32-year-old Marcus Gibbings.
Katrina Burgess and Cleveland Rogers claimed their case was not handled fairly and there was not enough evidence for their conviction.
But Carrington Mahoney, for the Crown, said the evidence against both the defendants was overwhelming when seen in context.
Mr Mahoney told the court: “The bits of evidence may not mean anything, but one has to look at the evidence combined.”
Mr Gibbings was found stabbed to death on October 26, 2006 in the apartment he had shared with Burgess in Derwent Lane, Devonshire.
Prosecutors claimed during the trial that Burgess had invited Mr Gibbings – her ex boyfriend – to the apartment so he could be ambushed by Rogers, who she paid $5,000 to carry out the murder.
Mr Mahoney said there was no sign that anyone had broken in and Mr Gibbings’ watch and wallet had not been taken.
He said the jury had heard Burgess had violently lashed out at Mr Gibbings before and a series of e-mails between them showed the deterioration of the relationship.
Mr Mahoney also told the court that Burgess had acted unusually before and after the murder, which the jury was entitled to consider in their deliberations.
He said that the day before Mr Gibbings body was found she left her office several times and told colleagues she was moving, even though she had told the landlord the same day she needed extra time to leave the apartment.
Mr Mahoney added that Burgess asked the victim’s mother two weeks after the murder to talk to the police about the investigation and let her know what they said.
He said the jury was entitled to find it “a bit peculiar” that she called the victim’s mother, not to let her know of the killing, but instead to ask about the investigation.
Mr Mahoney also highlighted evidence from two of Rogers’ ex girlfriends, who told the court that he had confessed the murder to them.
He said Rogers’ work boots matched the “type” that left prints in blood at the crime scene.
Mr Mahoney accepted a voicemail message left by Burgess on Mr Gibbings’ phone on the night of the murder could have been recovered if police acted faster.
But he said it was not a deliberate error and it did not spark prejudice against the defendant as the victim never heard its contents.
Mr Mahoney said: “It’s more important the context of the conversation she had in the earlier call as opposed to a voice mail that he never got.
“The key thing is if there was an agreement to meet at Derwent Lane.”
He added that her actions that evening did not suggest that she intended to meet Mr Gibbings.
Mr Mahoney also argued that the defendants were not hindered by their cases not being separated.
He said the trial judge, Acting Puisne Judge Craig Attridge was clear to the jury when evidence only applied to one of the defendants.
Susan Mulligan, who appeared for Rogers, said there were incidents where police failed to take notes of interviews with confession witnesses and several search warrants had been lost.
She also highlighted the amount of evidence brought to the court late and said that the court received at least 16 notices of additional evidence.
Ms Mulligan argued that Mr Justice Attridge should have stayed the proceedings because the missing evidence made it difficult for Rogers to defend himself or declared a mistrial as the late evidence continued to be put forward.
She said: “The issues should have been dealt with square on with the jury, and they were not.”
Ms Mulligan said the judge did tell the jury they should consider the missing evidence and the challenges it would cause the defendants, but he did not detail how.
She said: “It’s for the judge to tell the jury how to apply the law. He said they could take it into account. He said they could weigh it in their favour.
“He didn’t say to the jury they had the power to reject the prosecution at this point if you find the defence was so prejudiced that they could not challenge it. That didn’t arise in his directions.”
Ms Mulligan added that the verdict was “irrational” based on the limited evidence before the jury.
The hearing continues.
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