Firearms charge dismissed
(CNS): Charges against a teenager from West Bay accused of possessing an unlicensed firearm after he was seen crouching in bushes near to where a handgun was found by police were dismissed by a judge on Monday. In the second case in two weeks relating to possession of firearms, the crown's case collapsed when the judge entered a not guilty verdict against Charles Ebanks part way through the trial. Justice Carol Beswick, who was sitting alone in the case without a jury, said the crown had not reached the necessary threshold against the defendant. Had a jury been hearing the case, properly directed it could not have reached a guilty verdict, she said.
However, the acting judge did say the crown had met the threshold in the case against Ebanks' co-defendant, Frederick Booth.
The dismissal of Ebanks' case comes after the crown’s case against Kurt Carter for possession of an unlicensed firearm collapsed on Monday 27 August when the prosecution offered no evidence since the key witness had withdrawn.
The crown's case against Ebanks was, from the outset, circumstantial. The 19-year-old was arrested outside the LI nightclub by police responding to a 911 call in the early hours of 26 March last year. The officers on the scene say they saw Ebanks crouching near some bushes and a few minutes later, during a search of the area, discovered a .44 Ruger revolver a few feet away.
No one saw Ebanks with the weapon, however, nor was his DNA found on the gun. The crown brought the case against Ebanks based on what they said was his suspicious behaviour at the time -- he was described as “sweaty and nervous” -- and his interview, in which, the police said, the teenager gave a false explanation about what he was doing in the bushes.
During her judgment regarding the crown's case against Ebanks, Justice Beswick said that in her view the prosecution's case did not pass the threshold that would have enabled a jury to reasonably convict. While she said that Ebanks' behaviour may have been suspicious, taken at its highest a jury could not have reasonably found him guilty of possession of an unlicensed firearm.
The judge did, however, say that it was possible, on one view of the evidence, that a jury could against his co-defendant who was in the car park that night and whose DNA profile was later found on the weapon. As a result she said Booth did have a case to answer.
Booth, who was present in the nightclub car park on the night his co-defendant, Ebanks, was arrested and who had gone to the club with him, was approached by police because he fitted a description relating to a report that had been received by the 911 emergency call centre. He was searched and questioned by officers but nothing incriminating was found that night.
Booth was later arrested, however, when forensic tests revealed mixed DNA profiles which included that of Booth among others. Despite the low statistics, Booth was charged later based on the traces of DNA and his proximity to the weapon, which the crown said was around 20 feet when he was spotted by police.
Speaking on behalf of his client, defence attorney John Furnis told the court that Booth was facing trial simply because he was in the car park that night, despite the fact that the major DNA profile on the weapon belonged to another suspect, who police could not say was present or not on the night in question.
He pointed to the low statistical evidence in the mixed profile relating to his client – at best 1 in 1000 -- and said while it may have been possible that his client came into contact with the gun at some point in time, there was no evidence at all it was the night when the gun was found. He said there was no evidence that his client had care, control or possession of the gun.
Following the final submissions by the attorneys, Justice Beswick said she would retire to consider the case against Booth and would return her verdict on Thursday afternoon.
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