Conviction of co-accused in cop killing quashed
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Court of Appeal yesterday quashed the conviction of Clinton Evans, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 killing of police officer Jimmy Ambrose, while upholding the convictions of his co-accused: Stephen “Die” Stubbs and Andrew “Yogi” Davis, though their life sentences were quashed and set at 45 years each.
In March 1999, following a fight at the now closed Club Rock, Ambrose and Marcian Scott were shot at.
Both men attempted to flee, but Evans allegedly threw Ambrose on the ground and began kicking him and shooting at him. Stubbs allegedly joined in and shot Ambrose while on the ground.
Scott sought refuge behind a vehicle.
According to court documents, two officers at a nearby club saw a man come into the parking lot of the club holding what appeared to be a black firearm and hid it under a vehicle before leaving.
The officers identified the man as Stubbs. They retrieved the firearm.
No fingerprints were found on the weapon, though it matched the bullet casing found on scene.
Another two officers in the area of the club, who heard the gunshots, chased Evans, who turned and pointed a gun on them, but did not fire, and attempted to hide the weapon in a pile of sand.
The weapon was retrieved and also matched the bullet casings collected from the scene.
The three men were charged with Ambrose’s murder and the attempted murder of Scott.
Evans was also charged with two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to put another in fear.
Although Scott died in 2006 after the appellants’ first trial, his deposition at the preliminary inquiry and testimony at the first trial were admitted into evidence.
None of the appellants’ have evidence at the trial, but relied on the contents of interviews.
Following the third trial, the appellants were convicted for Ambrose’s murder and the attempted murder of Scott, and were sentenced to life imprisonment and 10 years imprisonment for the respective charges.
Evans was additionally sentenced with three years for the firearm charge.
The appellate court upheld Evans’ firearm possession conviction and sentence.
In the ruling, Court of Appeal Acting Justices Sir Michael Barnett and Milton Evans noted that the only evidence against Evans was the identification evidence of witness John Campbell and the forensic report conducted by Terence Higgs linking the bullets to the gun which Evans hid in the sand.
However, the ruling said that the fact that the crown had not taken all reasonable steps for Higgs to testify, and be cross-examined, deprived Evans of a fair trial.
“In the absence of the ballistic report, we are not satisfied that the identification evidence was such that a jury properly instructed could properly convict Evans,” read the ruling.
Stubbs and Davis alleged that the transcript of Scotts’ evidence was improperly admitted into evidence
The men were convicted in July 2013.
The prosecution sought the death penalty.
However, the defense argued that the death penalty was inapplicable because the offense had been committed before the introduction of the Penal Code amendments, and at a time when the lawful penalty for murder was either death, a life sentence or a term of years.
The appellants also appealed the life sentence on the basis that such a sentence was unconstitutional as there was no proper mechanism providing for the possibility of release.
While the court said it was unnecessary to consider the constitutionality of the life imprisonment sentence as it has been part of Bahamian law for many years and is a sentence available for both homicide as well as other offences under the Sexual Offences Act, it said the trial judge did not set out any factors which brought him to the conclusion that a life sentence was appropriate.
The trial judge rejected the death penalty, and imposed a life sentence.
The ruling said the sentence should have been for a specified period of time.
It quashed the life sentence and imposed a sentence of 45 years for Stubbs and Davis.
According to court documents, Davis has spent 11 years in prison, while Stubbs has spent 10 years in prison, leaving the men with 34 and 35 years remaining on their sentences respectively.
Barnett and Justice Evans agreed.
However, Sir Hartman Longley disagreed, saying dispute the contest of mistaken identification put forward by Evans, the evidence was sufficient for conviction because of the gun and the circumstances that surrounding its finding, which he said cannot “so easily be discounted and in fact corroborates or supports” identification of the Evans as one of the shooters.
“Not only was he seen to shoot at Scott and Ambrose, but there is evidence that he was seen to join in a brutal physical attack upon officer Ambrose after he had been wrestled to the ground by Davis, and he continued to fire shots at Ambrose with the others while he was on the ground, before running away,” Sir Hartman noted in the ruling.
“The law is clear. Where an offence is committed jointly by two or more persons each of them may play a different part, but each is guilty of the offence.”
“On the evidence, Evans committed acts of his own that would have resulted in the commission of the offenses and he also acted in concert with the others in the commission of the offences. “That evidence does not change with time and would be available for another trial.
Edward Fitzgerald, QC and attorney Murrio Ducille represented Stubbs.
Attorney Ian Cargill represented Davis and Attorney Ramona Farquharson-Seymour represented Evans.
Attorneys Neil Brathwaite and Destiny McKinney were listed as the attorneys for the respondent.