Appeal Court overturns guilty verdict against DC

District Constable Dean Hyman, who was in February 2021 found guilty of unlawful wounding of a then 18-year-old female friend and sentenced to two years at hard labour, was last Friday acquitted after the Appeal Court ruled that the verdict “is unreasonable and is not supported by the evidence”, creating “a risk of a grave miscarriage of justice”.

The Appeal Court said, based on case law, the evidence before the sentencing judge, and her reasons for judgment, it was “in a position to determine that she erred”.

According to the evidence led during the trial, in December 2016 the female complainant and Hyman were on a staircase at Big Youth Plaza, Lannaman Court, Christiana, Manchester, conversing. At the time, the complainant and the cop were friends. Hyman was off duty but was armed with his service firearm.

The court was told that while the two conversed Hyman’s service firearm was discharged, resulting in the complainant being shot and injured in her thigh, close to the groin. The cop, it was said, took her up, called for assistance and she was taken to hospital by police personnel who arrived on the scene. Hyman travelled with her in the service vehicle to the hospital and stayed with her in the emergency room until she was tended to.

In the matter, which was investigated by the Independent Commission of Investigations, Hyman maintained that the shooting was accidental.

The young woman, however, in different statements to the police, said she and Hyman were hugging when she felt him use the gun to touch her on her left thigh, after which she heard a sound like a gunshot. However, at the trial her evidence was that the cop was about a step away, at an arm’s length from her, when, whilst being verbally abusive to her, he took his firearm from his waist, pointed it at her, “crooked” his finger on the trigger and shot her.

Hyman, in an unsworn statement from the dock, said the gun, which had not been holstered, had fallen from his waist and while he was trying to catch and secure it, the complainant was accidentally shot.

The court, in freeing Hyman who had been out on bail pending the hearing of his appeal, said he was entitled to “have his appeal succeed and his conviction and sentence set aside”.

“The learned judge of the Parish Court fell into error when she found that the complainant had provided an explanation for the conflict in the evidence. Furthermore, in finding that there was an explanation for the conflict, and accepting the evidence given in court as true and credible, the learned judge of the Parish Court failed to consider the impact of the inconsistency and any weakening effect it may have had on the complainant’s credibility, and as a logical consequence, on the prosecution’s case,” the court said.

“The appeal against conviction and sentence is, therefore, allowed. The conviction is quashed, the sentence is set aside, and judgment and verdict of acquittal is entered,” it ordered.

The judges of the Appeal Court further said they were in agreement with submissions by Hyman’s lawyer that a retrial “would only serve the purpose of giving the prosecution a second bite of the cherry” to have the complainant provide an explanation for the conflict in her evidence.

“We did give anxious consideration to the fact that the complainant in this case received a serious injury, however, we do not believe the interests of justice would be best served in ordering a retrial,” the court said Friday.

It further said the Parish Court judge who tried the matter “was plainly wrong to have accepted and relied on the evidence of the complainant to call upon the appellant and having done so, to have convicted him without resolving the inconsistency in the complainant’s account of how she was shot.

“This is so because, as argued by counsel for the appellant, the learned judge of the Parish Court did not, and, in any event, could not resolve this major inconsistency in the complainant’s evidence because there was no evidence on which she could act to resolve it. There was nothing to explain away the entirely different version of the shooting contained in the second statement, which the complainant admitted giving, from what she stated in court,” the Appeal Court judges said.

“At the end of the case, the conflict in the prosecution’s case remained unexplained, the complainant’s credibility and the reliability of her evidence on a material issue were severely affected, and no factual finding could have properly been made from it to support a conviction,” they said further.

“The complainant’s evidence in court was a completely different story as to what had happened, including a different sequence of events, a motive alluded to for the first time, and more significantly, an admittedly different version of how she came to be injured. The learned judge of the Parish Court, as the judge of fact and law, was duty-bound to resolve the conflict created by what was said in the second statement and what was said in court. She was duty-bound to do so based on the explanation given for it by the complainant and not by any “well-meaning conjecture, as the two accounts, being entirely different, could not both be true”, the court said.