By: St.Clair Sazam Hull
(CHARLESTOWN NEVIS)-The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Nevis Circuit continued its sitting on Wednesday, November 11, 2015 before Her Ladyship, Justice Lorraine Williams.
The second matter to be heard was that of Lawton Forbes, a resident of Hamilton Estate who was charged with armed robbery. Forbes pleaded not guilty to the allegation.
According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, on the evening of Friday, August 8, 2014 at about 7.00 pm, the accused, along with an accomplice, infiltrated the premises of Xpetrol Gas Station located at Camps Village, and robbed the establishment of fifteen hundred EC dollars.
The Prosecution’s first witness was the owner of the establishment, Mr. Franklyn Browne. He noted that on the night of the incident, he was present at his business place when two armed gunmen came into the building. Browne told the court, that he was traumatized by the occurrence because he never encountered anything as such, in all his life. Browne indicated, that one of the gunmen was a bit fair in complexion, and the person fits the description of the defendant.
Defense lawyer for the accused, Mr. John Cato cross-examined the witness. Cato asked Browne how he was certain, of what complexion the person was. Browne stated, that the gunman reached into his front pocket with his right hand and during its removal, his sleeve came up and he saw the top of his hand. The lawyer asked Browne if he could have recognized the face of the defendant, Browne pointed out that it was impossible to see his face because his face was covered.
The Prosecution second witness was Constable Valentine Hodge. Hodge pointed out, that on the night of the robbery; he received a call from a lady at Xpetrol Gas Station, saying that they were robbed at gunpoint. He indicated that about 10 minutes thereafter, he received another call from the New Castle Police Station and that he ought to go in search of Lawton Forbes. The officer noted that he and another officer drove to the home of Forbes and upon arrival; they saw his mother standing outside. He told the court he inquired as to the whereabouts of the accused, and he was told by his mother that Lawton was not at home.
Hodge said that they patrolled the upper area of Hamilton for about 10 minutes, and then returned to the home of Forbes, but he was still nowhere to be found. He indicated that he told the defendant’s mother, to tell Lawton to get in touch with him as soon as possible and she said she will let him know. During cross-examination, Cato asked Hodge how long did it took him to get to the home of the accused, Hodge responded and said about fifteen (15) minutes. The lawyer asked why did it took him so long if Hamilton is so close to the Charlestown Police Station. The officer noted that when he received the telephone call, he had to wait on one of his colleagues for transportation, and he was driving within the speed limit of twenty miles per hour.
The second witness to testify under oath was Casval Nisbett. He told the court, that he went to Xpetrol Gas Station on the night of the robbery. He pointed out that the purpose of his visit, was to purchase two drinks and while he was paying for them, he heard someone shouted, “Robbery robbery!” Nisbett indicated that he glanced over his shoulder and the gunmen instructed him to get on the floor with immediate effect. He stated that he complied with what he was ordered to do. Nisbett told the court, that after the robbers had accomplished their mission, both fled the premises and he remained in the building until Police arrived on the scene.
The Prosecution’s third witness was Valentine Mills. He indicated that on the night in question, he had accompanied Casval Nisbett to Xpetrol. Mills told the court that while he was inside the building, two masked gunmen entered the establishment and he asked them, “What were they on?” He stated that the men responded and said, a robbery was on and he asked them, “what kind of robbery?” Mills indicated that the robbers advised him to get on the floor, and he acted accordingly. He told the court that after the men exited the building shortly after and he came outside in the yard.
Police Officer, Mr. Gregory Hanley, also testified from witness stand for the Prosecution. He pointed out that he was in search of the defendant since the incident took place but he was nowhere to be found. Hanley stated that he saw the accused on Monday, September 5, 2014 and told him about the incident. He said that the defendant told him that he had no idea what he was speaking about and he was home all night. The officer noted that he arrested and charged Forbes for armed robbery. The defense lawyer also cross-examined Hanley. He asked the office, if at any point in time, did he saw Forbes between the night in question and when he was arrested. Hanley responded and said, “He can’t remember if he saw the accused”.
The lawyer also asked Hanley, if he was familiar with Lorton Forbes. Hanley said he knew Forbes extremely well. Cato told Hanley, that he found it quite strange, that he was looking for an alleged armed robber, which he claimed to be familiar with and can’t remember if he saw him or not. He continued, “So you are telling this court, that for almost a month, you were looking for Lawton Forbes and you can’t remember if you rest your eyes on him?” The lawyer said that if Hanley proclaimed that he was looking for Forbes, and can’t remember if he saw him then maybe he was not looking for him at all.
The Prosecution’s final witness was Keona Daniel. Daniel was working as a cashier at Xpetrol Gas Station, when the robbery occurred. She told the court that she was just about to cash someone when two men entered with guns and issued instructions to those inside to get on the floor. She noted that whilst she was on the floor, one of the gunmen pointed the gun towards her and told her to push the Cash Register forward. Daniel pointed out that the person who instructed her to do such was the accused Lawton Forbes. During cross-examination, Cato asked Daniel, how was she able to identify the defendant if his face was covered. Daniel indicated that she knew the defendant extremely well and his entire face was not covered.
When the video footage of the incident was shown in court, Cato asked the witness if based on the footage, if it was clear that she was able to identify Lawton’s face. Daniel pointed out, that even though it may not have been visible in the footage; she was close enough to the accused to realize who it was. She also stated that the accused was wearing a green shirt on the night of the robbery.
The first witness to testify on behalf of the Defense was the accused Lawton Forbes. Forbes told the court that on the night in question; he was nowhere close to Xpetrol Gas Station. He indicated that he was by his girlfriend at the time of the incident, and the only time he spoke to Gregory Hanley was the day when he got arrested. Forbes said that no one told him, that the Police had requested that he should get in touch with them. The Prosecution’s lawyer, Mr. Dane Hamilton QC cross-examined the defendant. Hamilton asked Forbes what kind of clothing he was wearing on the day in question. Forbes noted that he can’t remember exactly what kind of clothing he was wearing.
Hamilton also questioned the accused about how many green shirts he has. Forbes stated clearly, that he has quite a few but he doesn’t know the exact number. The lawyer also asked Forbes about his whereabouts on the night of the occurrence. The accused said that he was by his girlfriend, and he knew nothing about what he has been accused of. Forbes also told the court, that he can’t remember the last time he went over on that side of the island, how long it has been.
Second to give evidence for the Defense from the witness stand, was the mother of the defendant, Mrs. Hyercinth Forbes. She told the court, that the Police came to visit her home on the evening of the incident, and asked for her son. She noted that she told the officers that Lawton was not at home, and they told her to tell him that he must get in touch with them. When she was cross-examined by the Prosecution, Hamilton asked Mrs. Forbes, if she had relayed the message onto her son. She pointed out that she had called Lorton’s phone, but his girlfriend answered and she gave him the message to give to him. When asked about if she was aware if Lawton had received the message or not, Mrs. Forbes said she wasn’t certain if he did, but she knew he told his girlfriend.
The hearing has been adjourned until Thursday, December 3, 2015 where Her Ladyship will sum up the case in its entirety. The jury will then make their decision subsequently to the Summing-up.