By Rashad Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
POLICE abuse of a suspect has led the Court of Appeal to overturn a man’s armed robbery conviction and sentencing.
In a new ruling, appellate judges said evidence from a man’s blood sample should have been excluded from his Supreme Court trial after it was determined that police likely used violent means to coerce his confession and consent to draw blood. After quashing the conviction, the judges said this was not a proper case to order a retrial.
Adnan Oliver was arrested for allegedly robbing Scotiabank in 2010. During his trial, a registered nurse testified that he was brought into a clinic on the arms of police officers and could not walk. While police said his injuries were obtained when he ran away from them and fell while handcuffed with his hands behind him, the trial judge did not accept officers’ testimony. Appellate judge Jon Isaacs, in a written ruling released Monday, said the trial judge could have “harboured no doubt about the reliability of the appellant’s allegations of abuse,” noting there was “ample evidence of injuries he received while in custody.”
Before escaping, a masked man had fired several shots during an armed robbery of Scotiabank’s Emerald Bay, Exuma branch on May 14, 2010. Oliver was arrested on May 15, 2010 and interviewed that day.
Between May 16, 2010 and May 17, 2010, he was interviewed four times by police. On May 17 he directed officers to a house where a 9mm casing was discovered. The Court of Appeal wrote in its ruling: “(Oliver) took officers to another area where, after a trek through bushes, the group came to a small clearing. The appellant then directed the officers to a pile of stones which, when removed, revealed a white bag containing cash, a pair of gloves, a black mask with eyeholes cut out and a firearm wrapped in a cloth. A portion of the glove was clipped off for testing as it contained a substance suspected of being blood. The appellant was, again, interviewed and another statement made by him. Thereafter, he consented to his blood being drawn and the DNA results revealed that the appellant could not be excluded as a contributor. The bait money was identified as being the property of the bank and the shells collected at the scene matched the firearm recovered from under the pile of stones.”
Oliver’s blood sample was essential in linking him to the items connected to the armed robbery. However, during his trial he disputed that his interview, statements and blood sample were voluntarily provided. He said he was beaten by officers to sign the record of interview (ROI) statement and was threatened with more beating if he did not provide a blood sample. During voir dire, the trial judge excluded his records of interview and statements but ruled “that the evidence related to the blood sample could be led.” Oliver was eventually convicted of armed robbery, house breaking, possession of an unlicensed firearm and possession of ammunition.
Justice Isaacs wrote there was “incongruity between the judge’s decision not to allow the records of interview and written statement to be admitted into evidence presumably because he harboured a doubt as to their voluntariness and his decision to allow the evidence surrounding the taking of the blood sample to be heard by the jury. This is particularly inexplicable because the taking of the appellant’s blood occurred between the taking of the two statements.
“In the circumstances of this case, the judge ought to have refused to allow the prosecution to rely on the evidence derived from the blood samples taken from the appellant in pursuance of the signed consent form. The result of such refusal would have been to render irrelevant and therefore inadmissible the evidence of the DNA testing and results; and without which, there was no other evidence to connect the appellant to the offenses charged except for the items found in the bushes, that is, the money, the firearm and gloves. The judge ought to have employed section 178 of the Evidence Act and ruled the evidence relating to the consent form and the taking of the appellant’s blood inadmissible in the circumstances of this case. Had he done so, there was insufficient evidence upon which the prosecution could rely to require the appellant to answer their case.”
Justice Isaacs said the judge should not have accepted the signed consent form as evidence of consent but should have established whether “true consent” was given. He said the judge should have considered the constitution’s provision that “no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Noting the decision to exclude the blood sample does not reflect a desire to punish the police, he wrote: “There have been many allegations of harsh and abusive treatment of suspects at the hands of the police which have been found by courts of the Bahamas to have credence; and we take judicial notice of same. It does not conduce to the attainment of justice and fairness for the courts to legitimise or encourage such behaviour by placing its imprimatur (approval) inferentially on it via the admission of what the American courts refer to as the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree.’”