A judge’s mishandling of a squabble between two jurors has resulted in the acquittals of two men.
Zintworn “Scummy” Duncombe and Cordero Saunders were jointly tried for the 2013 murders, kidnapping and attempted armed robbery of Senior Immigration Officer Shane Gardiner and his lover Tishka Braynen on Andros.
Prosecutors alleged that the couple was shot execution-style during a botched plan to rob Gardiner of his gambling winnings. Wild boar hunters found their decomposed remains at Newbold Farms on Andros almost a month after they were reported missing.
Jurors convicted Duncombe of murder, kidnapping and attempted armed robbery; and Saunders of kidnapping, attempted armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
On Monday, the appellate court ruled that the trial judge’s failure to thoroughly investigate an altercation that occurred between the jury forewoman and an alternate juror created a “material irregularity”.
On learning of the dispute, the court said the judge was required to hold an inquiry in open court to determine if the panel could reach a “true verdict”.
The court also ruled that the judge’s refusal to issue summonses to secure the attendance of two witnesses for Duncombe was unfair.
At the trial, Duncombe’s attorney said the witnesses would only be released from their jobs if they had subpoenas.
The court said “expedience cannot overpower an accused person’s undoubted constitutional right to a fair hearing”.
Duncombe and Saunders remain in custody, as the court will hear arguments on whether a retrial should be held.