Inmate's jail time slashed by nine years on appeal
(CNS): The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has overturned a conviction for attempted murder and replaced it with the offence of wounding with intent in connection with a case that the police believed was an attempted ‘hit’ gone wrong. Carlney Campbell was 18 when he was convicted of trying to kill José Morales in an elevator at the Treasure Island Resort on West Bay Road disguised as a police officer. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail last October but that prison term was significantly reduced on Friday to only six years, in line with the revised conviction, cutting nine years from the original sentence. The panel of senior judges found that there was no evidence of intent to kill and the judge should not have directed the jury accordingly.
However, during the appeal hearing the panel found that the jury had been properly directed in connection with the identity of the perpetrator and that they had sufficient evidence on which to arrive at the conclusion that Campbell, who is now 20 years old, was the attacker, even though they altered the offence.
The dispute over the intent to kill boiled down to one comment the victim claimed the man who stabbed him had said. When giving his evidence, Morales said that when he struggled with his attacker and for a moment gained the upper hand, has assailant had said, “I’m sorry, man. They paid me to do it,” and it was on this basis that the attempted murder charge was made.
The judges stated, however, that there was no evidence to explain what "it" was and the court had been wrong to assume it was murder. As a result, the judges overturned Campbell’s attempted murder conviction and substituted it with the lesser offence of wounding with intent, which was an alternative count that had been placed before the jury.
At the time of the trial last year it was revealed that the teenager had succeeded in stabbing Morales in the head. The prosecution believed Morales was the wrong man in a paid assassination attempt that had failed. Morales was trained in martial arts and he survived to tell the tale of how Campbell had tried to trick him by dressing up in blue police overalls.
Campbell had protested his innocence all along, stating that it was a case of mistaken identity, but the crown had claimed the real mistake in identity was that of the victim, since Morales swore under oath that he had no idea why he was attacked and had heard the comments from his assailant that he had been paid to commit the attack. However, the police were unable to ascertain who the real intended victim had been and there was no other evidence that Campbell was attempting to execute a hit.
The crime took place in an elevator at Treasure Island Resort, where Morales lived. What he believed was a police officer in blue overalls walked past him as the elevator arrived, and Morales got in the lift. After the door closed it re-opened and the 'police officer', who turned out to be Campbell, walked in. Morales tried to walk out but Campbell told him that he should get back in and, thinking he was a real police officer, the victim asked if there was a problem.
Campbell forced Morales to turn around and face the wall as the elevator door closed. Campbell tried to tie Morales' hands behind his back with plastic string and produced a knife which he put in to his back.
As Morales was young, physically fit and trained in martial arts, he was able to turn suddenly and grab the knife by the blade, hit Campbell with his right elbow and knock him off balance. As they struggled, Morales overpowered Campbell and held the knife to his throat, which is when Campbell told him he had been paid to "do it".
Morales asked who paid him but got no answer and instead Campbell bit him on the arm forcing him to release his grip on the knife, at which point Campbell stabbed Morales in the head. Morales threw some punches but sustained a further stab wound near his ear. Eventually, Campbell dropped the knife and fled before Morales called 911 for help.
The Court of Appeal said the wounds sustained by Morales, despite being to the head and neck, were part of an unexpected and undirected struggle between the two men and were not evidence of an intention to kill but that Campbell stabbed in the easiest direction to get away from his victim, who was fighting back.
See related story: 15 years jail for AEC alumnus
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