Jury acquits man in 2017 rum shop incident
After a jury deliberated on the circumstances surrounding a 2017 incident at a rum shop in Union Island which left an elderly man paralysed, they acquitted the 38-year-old accused of causing grievous bodily harm.
Therefore, Rudolph ‘Bruno’ Andrews no longer has this charge hanging over his head, and he escaped any sentencing at the High Court that would have followed a guilty verdict.
Andrews, originally of Campden Park, was represented in the five-day trial by his lawyer Samantha Robertson, and the prosecution was led by crown counsel Allana Cumberbatch.
In an interesting feature of the case, many witnesses who hail from the Grenadine Island, chose to testify via live link instead of in-person. Justice Brian Cottle, in his summation on May 14, explained, “…they, not unreasonably, think that St Vincent is not as safe in terms of the current pandemic for them, as Union Island. So they prefer to stay there.”
However, the 72-year-old, Lawrence Alexander, who had sustained injuries on July 25, 2017, was not among those who gave evidence, as he passed away on August 4, 2017.
Among the issues that came out during the trial, the jury had to consider whether there was self defense, as well as whether it could be considered an accident.
Andrews hadn’t given evidence during the trial, but he had spoken to the police in an electronic interview which had been recorded and played back as evidence in court.
The defense said, “…that Lawrence threw water on him and kicked him under the table. He said that Lawrence picked up a stool and tried to hit him. He held on to that stool and he struggled. Lawrence lost his footing and fell and that’s how he sustained his injuries,” Cottle revised.
Looking at this, and the opposing evidence of the prosecution, the jury were to consider if there was a need for Andrews to use force against Alexander in the situation, and if so, whether the force used was reasonable.
Further the prosecution had to prove that what happened wasn’t an accident.
“…They must prove that the act which caused the grievous bodily harm was a conscious act by the defendant, that is, he was in command of his faculties, and it was a deliberate intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm without any justification…” the judge directed.
Cottle also repeated the evidence that had come out in the case.
The electronic interview was conducted on July 29, 2017. Andrews, commonly known as ‘Bruno’, described a scene where he was at a shop in Clifton, Union Island, drinking alongside one Hector (owner of the shop), Hector’s brother, Hector’s brother’s girlfriend and Alexander. Everyone was buying rum, round after round, until it reached Alexander.
“..I turned and I say um, Mr Lawrence, everybody buying a rum, how come you ain’t buying a rum?” he told the police.
This triggered an argument, with Alexander saying “I disrespecting him, I don’t know him when he been younger what he woulda do from what he wouldn’t do…”
People were telling Alexander to “Finish, finish with that”.
Andrews recalled that he was about to get up when Alexander threw a glass of water at him, and said the elderly man was also kicking him.
“You throw water on me? I’m a big man, and you kicking me too?” Andrews asked.
Andrews said that Lawrence picked up a stool and was about to hit him with it, but he met him in the air with the stool, and they wrestled. In going to kick him, the 72-year-old lost his balance, Andrews submitted, and Andrews wrung the stool out of his hand.
He reckoned the stool probably hit somewhere on the elderly man’s hand, before he lost his balance, and went backwards, hitting his head on the railing and ground.
Andrews posited that he was the one who wet Alexander with water and rum to get him to regain consciousness.
On the other hand, Hector’s brother, one Thomas, said that what happened was ‘Bruno’ was complaining that Alexander was stretching his foot and kicking him. After being chided for being childish, Alexander then stopped. ‘Bruno’ also complained that Alexander wanted to throw water on him, and the glass was apparently taken away from the elder by Thomas.
Reacting to more kicking, the witness said, ‘Bruno’ picked up a stool and ‘charged’ it after Alexander. The witness himself blocked the blow, but the foot of the stool, he said, touched Alexander’s forehead. It is said that due to his weak and intoxicated state, Alexander fell back on the rail. This witness felt Alexander was the instigator that day. He also noted that he did not see the elderly man with a stool that night.
Hector described hearing Alexander cursing, but he did not see the actual incident, being busy with serving. He saw Alexander on the ground, and Andrews with a stool in his hand over him.
Another patron of the shop did not see what happened, but said he heard a rebound sound, and looked around to see ‘Bruno’ with a stool raised over Alexander as if to hit him again.
Thomas’ girlfriend told the court that they were all making jokes that night, and Alexander started to trouble Andrews and “give him words”, and gave her and ‘Bruno’ “outta place words”. After the elderly man threw water on Andrews, he picked up two stools and threw one of them, she said. She stuck around long enough to see her boyfriend block it, and then left. When she returned, the elderly man was on the ground. While she knew that ‘Bruno’ made comments about Alexander kicking him, she did not see this herself.
A medical doctor examined Alexander after the incident, and reported that the patient could not move his extremities, and had an abrasion to the right frontal region of his skull. She suspected a possible spinal cord injury.
However, a police officer who visited Alexander, recalled that he asked Alexander what happened, and he pointed to his forehead.
After contemplation, the nine member jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict.