Both the Crown and defense lawyers presented their closing submissions to the jury yesterday during Taaj Muhammed’s murder trial in the Supreme Court.
Carrington Mahoney, for the Crown, began by highlighting that a key witness during the trial who was close with the defendant who we cannot be named for legal reasons, was looking for Muhammed a couple of days before Ronniko Burchall was shot in the head in front of St. David’s Cricket Club as well as a few days afterwards, but she could not find him, which she found a bit unusual at the time.
“ The witness said that Mr. Muhammed told her one day that he shot [Mr. Burchall] and would constantly threaten her that she would be next,” he reminded jurors. “ She felt that he took pride in what he had done and, according to the crown witness, he even elaborated a bit about it when they were both at the Mini-Yacht club one night, telling her that he blew Worrior’s [Mr. Burchall’s] head off, swam from Cashew City [in St. David’s] St. George’s harbor, and even told her where in the sea he believed he dropped the gun.”
He also reminded the jury that the witness did not talk to police about what Mr. Muhammed confessed to her until July 2020, a few days after she last saw him. Once she did talk to police, however, she laid everything out.
Mr. Mahoney admitted to the jury how absurd swimming from St. David’s to St. George’s harbor in December really late at night while fully clothed actually seems, but reminded them that it is not Prosecution’s job to prove how Mr. Muhammed got to St. George’s on the night of the murder, as he is not on trial for swimming to St. George’s.
“ Mr. Muhammed is on trial for the murder of Ronniko Burchall, so how he reached his grandmother’s house [in St. George’s] on December 29 is neither here nor there,” he explained. “ [If] you are satisfied that he is the one who ran up and shot Ronniko Burchall and also [allegedly] admitted it to a trial witness and used it to threaten her, you have to bear that in mind and do not get sidetracked by the rhetoric along the way. You are not trying a swimming case.”
Mr. Mahoney then went over some of the CCTV footage from St. David’s Cricket Club from December 28 and 29, 2018, with the jury. In his opinion, the footage showed that Mr. Muhammed was at the club the night of the murder and, based on various police and civilian witnesses who viewed the footage, he was indeed the one who shot and killed Mr. Burchall.
After the lunch break, Mr. Muhammed’s lawyer Charles Richardson presented his closing arguments to the jury. According to him, the Crown’s case relies on four major legs: that, based on CCTV footage, Mr. Muhammed was at the St. David’s Cricket Club on December 28 and 29, 2018; that he fled St. David’s after the murder by swimming to St. George’s harbor, that he confessed to the murder to a civilian witness, and that the same witness confirmed that he was in the CCTV footage from the club.
As for the first leg, Mr. Richardson highlighted that none of the CCTV footage that was seen by the jury is of very high quality by any stretch of the imagination and that the further subjects are from the cameras’ “zone of clarity,” the harder they become to make out.
He also reminded jurors that none of the CCTV footage came with sound; thus, people can make any assumptions that they wish about what the subjects in the video are speaking about. He calls this the “silent movie effect” and warned jurors to be very cautious of it.
For the Crown’s second leg, Mr. Richardson reiterated that no-one, not even Bermuda’s Olympic gold medal triathlete Flora Duffy, could swim from Cashew City in St. David’s to St. George’s Harbor at night in December, fully clothed and allegedly with a weapon in their possession. According to him, that is a story so crazy that only a naive, scared young lady (referring to the trial witness) could come up with.
As for Mr. Muhammed confessing the murder to the witnes, Mr. Richardson asked jurors to thoroughly scrutinize that evidence, as in his opinion, the trial witness whom he confessed to had a reason to strongly dislike and even hate Mr. Muhammed and that she went to the police in July of 2020 out of desperation.
Mr. Richardson told the jurors that the aforementioned witness was expected to identify Mr. Muhammed as the shooter in the CCTV footage, for the reasons previously mentioned.
It was for these reasons that, in his opinion, the Crown’s case against his client did not have strong legs to stand on.
As he wrapped up, Mr. Richardson told jurors that rendering a not guilty verdict would not mean that his client is necessarily innocent of this crime, but rather that they would be unsure of his guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
Acting Justice Juan Wolffe, who presides over the case, will provide the jury with his interpretation of the evidence presented and give them certain instructions today,after which they will leave to deliberate the verdict for Mr. Muhammed.
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