NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the conviction of a man who robbed Scotia Bank in Long Island in 2012.
Court of Appeal Justices Jon Isaacs, Stella Crane-Scott and Milton Evans ruled the court was “satisfied that no miscarriage of justice has actually occurred”.
Dion Watson and Hancel Rolle, both of Exuma, were accused of robbing the Scotiabank branch in Stella Maris, Long Island, of $7,000 on May 31, 2012, while masked and armed with shotguns.
The men were also accused on causing $5,000 in damage to the bank, and endangering the lives of three people.
The men stormed into the bank and demanded cash before discharging several shots, which caused damage to the building.
After receiving cash from two tellers, the men fled.
The men were subsequently found in a white Boston Whaler in waters off the side of Long Island.
During trial, counsel for the defence requested the judge conduct a voir dire, claiming Watson and Rolle had been beaten and forced to participate in interviews with police without an attorney present.
The Crown disputed the allegations.
The judge ruled in favour of the Crown and determined the record of interview and caution statement were admissible in the trial.
Justice Guillimina Archer-Minnis sentenced Watson in October 2016 to 15 years imprisonment for three counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and one count of causing damage.
He was not convicted of robbing the bank, despite being present in the bank at the “material time committing the offences for which he was convicted”.
Watson appealed on the basis that the Supreme Court judge erred in law when she “misdirected the jury” and that the conviction was “unsafe and cannot stand having regard to the circumstances of the case”.
According to the appellate court, the witnesses in the bank testified that it was the shorter darker man — Rolle — who took the bank’s money, but although the appellant demanded the vault be opened, it was not, and no money was reportedly taken by the appellant himself.
Isaacs wrote that the jury could not reasonably find the appellant was present in the bank at the material time committing the offences for which he was convicted, but not find that he participated in the armed robbery, “yet, that is what they did”.
He wrote this was an “unrealistic conclusion given the appellant’s statement to the police”.
Isaacs noted the decision can be explained by the jury following the judge’s directions to consider each count separately.
“The judge ought to have directed the jury to consider the case against each defendant separately and to consider each offence separately, but that to arrive at a verdict in respect of each offence, their verdicts must be the same, namely if they were satisfied that the appellant was the taller bright coloured man armed with a shotgun in the bank that day, and they accepted the evidence of the bank’s employees, particularly Margo John and Katheline Ritchie, they could convict the appellant for the offences with which he was charged, whether he was acting alone or in concert with another,” Isaacs wrote.
“However, in the absence of such a direction, 12 in my view, the jury’s decision to convict the appellant of, inter alia, causing damage but not armed robbery, raises the spectre of an inconsistent verdict.”
In his statement tendered into evidence, Watson admitted his role in, among other things, robbery of the bank.
“Given the circumstances of the case and the directions of the judge, we are not satisfied that it would be in any way unsafe to let the verdicts stand.
“In the premises, we find no merit in this ground; hence, it fails.
“Even if we are wrong to so find, we are satisfied that this would be a proper case for the proviso to section 13(1) of the Court of Appeal Act…”
Attorney Richard Boodle appeared for Watson.
Attorney Algernon Allen appeared for the respondent.