By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal has dismissed a man's attempts at challenging his ten-year sentence for fatally shooting his friend in the chest with a shotgun during an argument almost a decade ago.
Appellate Justices Jon Isaacs, Stella Crane-Scott, and Sir Michael Barnett dismissed Andrew "Yellow" Knowles' appeal of his conviction and sentence concerning the 2010 death of Delshawn Bernard.
Knowles had maintained, among other things, the sentencing judge failed to leave the issue of accident to the jury for consideration, which was grounded in his admission to police that he fired a "warning shot" at Bernard and wasn't aware his friend had been injured.
However, the appellate judges said such an admission "does not rise to the level of disclosing an accident." Conversely, they said it in fact demonstrates a "deliberate act" by Knowles.
According to the ruling, sometime around 6pm on January 9, 2010, Knowles and Bernard got into an argument while both were on East Street near Audley Kemp and Sons Bar.
Bernard left the scene and returned shortly afterwards with a machete. Knowles in turn then ran off and returned a short time later with a shotgun in his trousers.
Bernard reportedly walked in Knowles' direction, and as he got closer Knowles pulled out the shotgun and shot him in the chest.
Bernard was subsequently taken to hospital by ambulance where he was pronounced dead.
Knowles was consequently arrested and interviewed for the offence of murder.
According to the ruling, Knowles confessed to firing a warning shot when Bernard had approached him but maintained it was not his intent to harm him.
Knowles said he fired the warning shot to prevent Bernard from either taking the shotgun from him or assaulting him, and maintained he didn't even know Bernard had been shot.
However, upon being arrested, Knowles told the arresting officer, Police Constable Timothy Johnson: "Yes, officer I shot him because he attacked me.
"I shot him because he slapped me and spanked me with a cutlass."
However, in his statement to police, Knowles did not mention that when Bernard went after him, he was still armed with the cutlass or a weapon of any kind, and neither did any evidence of Bullard being armed at that time emerge from the evidence in the trial.
At the end of his trial Knowles was acquitted of the murder charge but found guilty on the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Justice Turner sentenced him to ten years in prison to run from March 11, 2015, the date of conviction.
Knowles appealed Justice Turner's ruling, charging the judge erred in law when he left the offence of manslaughter to the jury, thereby depriving him of an acquittal in all the circumstances, namely the Crown's failure to satisfy the elements of the offence of murder; the judge's misdirection on self-defence and omission of a direction on accident.
The appellate judges noted there can be "no resistance" to Knowles' contention that the Crown failed to satisfy the ingredients of the murder charge, stating the jury's acquittal on the charge "is a testament" to the "correctness" of that proposition.
Further, the accused's attorney Murrio Ducille had submitted that based on the Crown's evidence of Bernard being struck in the chest from a distance, it could be reasonably inferred that Knowles did not aim at him.
However, the appellate judges said they were unable to concur with that assertion, stating Bernard being struck from a distance may be more consistent with the inference of aiming and conversely inconsistent with his claims that a warning shot was fired.
Additionally, the appellate judges said while the Crown failed to prove their case concerning the murder charge, the jury was evidently "satisfied" that Knowles caused Bernard's death by means of unlawful harm.
"The jury had not only the words of the appellant but the medical and firearm evidence to consider," the appellate judges said.
"Further, it was a matter for the jury how they would regard the appellant leaving the scene, retrieving a shotgun and returning to confront Bernard."
Concerning the issue that Knowles said was Justice Turner's failure to leave the issue of an accident for the jury's consideration, the appellate judges noted there was "no substance" to the complaint that the defence of accident was raised in Knowles' account of what transpired at the material time.
The judges noted that Knowles admitted: "…I fire one warning shot. I ain't even know he got shoot.'
"The statement, 'I fire one warning shot' does not rise to the level of disclosing an accident," the judges said.
"In fact, it demonstrates a deliberate act by the appellant.
"Accordingly, on that admission by the appellant, accident could not arise.
"…At the end of an anxious and prolonged consideration of the material put before us, including not only the transcript of the trial and the summing-up, but also the submissions put to the court on behalf of the appellant, we think that the verdict was safe and satisfactory.
"We have no lurking doubt as to whether an injustice has been done in this case.
"…In the premises, the appeal against conviction fails.
"The conviction stands and the sentence imposed, is affirmed."