By FARRAH JOHNSON
A JURY yesterday listened to the closing arguments from Crown and defence counsel on whether an accused man shot and killed another man who was found in a shallow grave on an undeveloped plot of land in 2018.
The panel is expected to decide the fate of Carlos Brown concerning the murder of Renaldo Bullard, whose body was found with injuries and partly covered with branches in a bushy area on Martin’s Close off Cowpen Road in 2018. Police say the crime occurred sometime between October 25 and 28 of that year.
The trial, which commenced before Justice Grant-Thompson in February, resumed yesterday. Due to social distancing measures, the accused tuned into the hearing via a video link while in custody at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
Yesterday, Brown’s attorney Nathan Smith told the jury his client was an innocent man until proven guilty. He also said that Brown had only found himself in his current situation because of a “mere allegation” and argued that the same thing could happen to anybody under similar circumstances.
Mr Smith was referring to the testimony of Desir Gibson, a witness who identified Brown as one of the men he saw acting suspiciously the day he heard gunshots. According to the Crown, Mr Gibson was in his backyard with his girlfriend and a friend playing dominoes on October 26, 2018. At the time, Mr Gibson said he heard three bangs which sounded like gunshots, so he got up to investigate. When he did, he said he heard two more gunshots. During cross examination, he also told the police that he stood on an old gas tank and peered over a nine-foot wall. That is when he saw two men walking out of some bushes. According to Mr Gibson, one of the men was shirtless, 5’6” and had a dark complexion while the other man was 6’3” and wore jeans. Mr Gibson said he saw both men head towards a vehicle before the short one went to the trunk to look for something. He said at the time, he noticed that the short man had something in his hand which looked like a gun.
Insisting Brown did not commit murder, Mr Smith asked the jury not to “make the same mistake” the investigating officer did when he “took Mr Gibson’s account as fact”. He also asked them to “examine the evidence akin to their own life experiences” in order to determine whether Mr Gibson was telling the truth or not.
Mr Smith argued the fact that Mr Gibson claimed he was 20 feet away from the yard and had nothing obstructing his view when he saw the two men, proved that the jury would be “misguided” if they believed his account. Asking the panel to examine one of the photos submitted into evidence, Mr Smith argued that the place where Mr Gibson claimed to be standing was “at least 80 feet” from where he said he had seen the two men. He also said the photo proved there was an “obstruction to his view”.
Mr Smith also noted that when Mr Gibson gave a description of Brown, he claimed the person was bareback and had a brimmed hat on. He said, “considering the vantage point” the jury could not rely on that evidence, since Mr Gibson did not describe any “distinguishable characteristics like body hair or tattoos”.
Stating that Mr Gibson claimed to have never seen Brown before, he also argued his testimony was not reliable since it was normal for people not to be able to identify their own family members at times.
Mr Smith also noted that Mr Gibson was the “sole person” to say he heard gunshots and said he found it “eerily suspicious” that Mr Gibson’s girlfriend or friend did not get up to observe the scene as well. He claimed the fact the other two did not get up to see what Mr Gibson was looking at for six to eight minutes “defied logic”.
Mr Smith also questioned why the investigating officer did not seek to speak to Mr Gibson’s girlfriend or his other friend that day. He also stated that the investigation had to be called into question considering Mr Gibson’s history as a drug convict. He added that the fact that the body was discovered on a property that Brown maintained, did not make him responsible for the murder since the area was not “exclusive” and had a track road.
With that in mind, he argued that it was “highly likely” that Mr Bullard was killed somewhere else before his body was “deposited” in the yard where he was discovered. He also noted that the lack of blood and gun casing at the scene supported his submission. Noting that a doctor reported that one of Mr Bullard’s fingers was missing after examining his dead body, Mr Smith argued that Mr Bullard’s death was drug related and he had “thug life” tattooed on his body, suggested that his finger could have been removed during an interrogation.
He further asserted that Mr Brown admitted to being on the property the day Mr Bullard’s body was discovered and stated that the fact that his client did not attempt to evade the question, proved he was innocent. Mr Smith claimed that a man who had just killed somebody would have denied being on the scene in question in the first place. He also said since Brown continued to visit the property, his behaviour signified the “acts of an innocent man.”
During the earlier stages of the trial, Mr Brown’s girlfriend at the time, Zainab Larrimore, testified that the accused had taken her to the property to show her the progress he had made in clearing the premises. According to the Crown, this took place one day before Mr Bullard’s body was found. At the time, Ms Larrimore said that they arrived shortly after 1pm and stayed for 10 minutes, because she did not feel comfortable. Despite that fact, Ms Larrimore noted that Mr Brown had asked her to walk around the property “numerous times” that day. In his defence, Mr Smith insisted that although Ms Larrimore believed that Mr Brown had acted suspiciously that day, she had no basis to rest her allegations on besides her own intuition.
In her closing remarks, Crown attorney Jacklyn Munnings said Mr Gibson claimed he was standing 20 yards away when he saw the two men and not 20 feet as indicated by Mr Smith. She also told the jury that nothing was there to obstruct Mr Gibson’s view that morning, since the “bushes were low.” Mrs Munnings said that Mr Gibson did not deny his criminal record, but instead “owned up to it.” She added that during Mr Gibson’s cross examination, he also “maintained his demeanor” and noted that there was only “one way in and out” of Martin’s Close, after insisting that the area was not used as a track road. Stating that Brown and Ms Larrimore would have been dating for eight to nine months at the time, Mrs Munnings also insisted that Ms Larrimore would have been in a position to discern that Brown was acting anxious that day. She also reminded the jury that the doctor who testified explained that there was a possibility that Mr Bullard’s blood could have been “absorbed into the ground,” since he had been dead for about 48 hours before he was found.
During her presentation, Mrs Munnings also highlighted “key portions” of evidence previously given by witnesses during the course of the trial. She noted that a 10-year-old boy said he was playing in his backyard with his sister when he saw some dogs coming into his aunt’s yard. He said the dogs had been licking a pile of grass, so he got a stick and brushed it. That’s when he saw something that looked like a dead body and ran to tell his mother. Mrs Munnings said that the boy’s mother had also testified. She told officers that her son had woken her up that around noon that day and appeared to be “frantic and anxious.” He then took her to a property adjacent to their yard and led her to a “bunch of bushes or heap of some sort.” At the time, the woman claimed that she had smelt a scent which she assumed was a dead dog. Still, she said when her son began to brush the heap with a stick, she noticed plaid boxers, so she ran screaming to alert others.
Stating the act of murder was defined as intentionally causing the death of someone by means of unlawful harm, Mrs Munnings insisted that a crime had been committed since Mr Bullard was found dead with bullet wounds to his head and upper back.
The summation of the case is scheduled to begin today at noon.