By PAVEL BAILEY
Tribune Court Reporter
THREE men convicted of having $1.6m worth of marijuana off the coast of Andros in 2019 had their three-year prison sentence upheld yesterday by the Court of Appeal.
Howard Rolle, Clyde Dawkins and Pizzario Brennen attempted to appeal their possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply conviction from 2022 before Justices Sir Michael Barnett, Milton Evans and Sir Brian Moree.
On May 3, 2019, at 3.30 am, police with the assistance of a US Coast Guard helicopter intercepted a white “Go Fast” vessel travelling around the southern end of south Andros. The three defendants aboard the vessel were seen throwing what was believed to be trafficked drugs overboard.
Upon capturing the vessel, police recovered 43 crocus bags from the ocean containing 1,627lbs of marijuana with an estimated street value of $1,627,000. Among the drugs fished from the water was a Nike bag containing the NIB card of Pizzario Brennen.
In their appeal of their three-year prison sentence and $15,000 fine, the accused argued that they had not received a fair trial under Magistrate Samuel McKinney and the evidence did not support the conviction.
The Justices in the Appeal Court noted that none of the three grounds of the convicts’ appeal had any merit and that Magistrate McKinney presided over their case fairly.
The ruling, written by Milton Evans, said: “I am satisfied that there is no merit in any of the three grounds. Firstly, I am not persuaded that the record provided for the appeal is in any way deficient. The Magistrate who had the benefit of seeing and hearing the witnesses as they gave their evidence was satisfied that none of the witnesses was discredited nor were any of the witnesses shaken during cross-examination. He further found all of the witnesses for the prosecution to be truthful and credible having observed their demeanour in the witness box as they presented their evidence.”
The ruling expounded on the fact that key evidence from one of the convicts’ arresting officers, Corporal Ferguson, directly proved the applicants’ guilt. It was for that reason that the Justices found the conviction by Magistrate McKinney sound.
Mr Evans said: “Secondly, and most importantly I agree with the finding of the Magistrate that the key witness at trial was Corporal Ferguson. As pointed out by the Magistrate, Corporal Ferguson maintained visual contact of the Go Fast vessel and its occupants from his aerial position from the beginning of his surveillance of the vessel and its occupants, the dumping of bags of suspected drugs from the vessel into the sea, the start of and throughout the chase of the vessel by him and the other crew members onboard the helicopter to the interception of the vessel by drug enforcement officers onboard a police boat waiting in the area, the search of the defendants and the vessel they were on by the intercepting officers, the escort of the defendants and their vessel back to the area where they were seen dumping bags of suspected drugs from their vessel into the sea and the retrieval of the bags of suspected drugs from the sea in their presence by the arresting officers.
“Ferguson’s evidence, in my view, once accepted by the magistrate was sufficient to establish the guilt of the appellants. His evidence was sufficient to fill any gaps which existed in the evidence of the officers on the police vessel. It is also clear that even if the evidence of the Nike bag was totally excluded, Ferguson’s evidence was sufficient to establish the guilt of Brennen who was found on the boat from which Ferguson saw the drugs dumped into the sea.”
“It is for the foregoing reasons that I would dismiss the appeals of each appellant and affirm the convictions and sentences imposed by the learned Magistrate.”