November 1, 2013

CCJ embraces DNA evidence

Fri Nov 01, 2013

by Monique Scott, Norman Manley Law School

The Caribbean Court of Justice dismissed the appeal of Mr Clyde Anderson Grazette, who was convicted for murder in Barbados. The prosecution’s case was mainly based on DNA evidence linking Grazette to the death of a young woman. Grazette argued that the judge was wrong to allow this evidence to be used at the trial, because there was inconsistent testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses on what occurred between the time of the taking of the DNA sample in Barbados and the testing by the FBI in the USA ( that is, the “chain of custody”).{{more}} In particular, Grazette complained about significant differences in the evidence dealing with the number of DNA samples taken, the labelling and packaging of the samples and the handing over to the FBI for testing.

The CCJ rejected these arguments. It held that any inconsistencies in the chain of custody could be easily reconciled. The court held that the DNA evidence was properly admitted into evidence at the trial. The Court held that once the judge decided that it was likely that the DNA sample was not tampered with and that it matched the sample taken from the deceased, the evidence could be used by the prosecution. The Court also rejected the argument that the use of DNA evidence was prejudicial, noting that evidence is not prejudicial simply because it makes it more likely that the defendant will be convicted. The Grazette decision demonstrates that once there is clear evidence on the chain of custody, the CCJ will not easily overturn a murder conviction based on a positive DNA sample.

This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at http://www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/cr1_2009.pdf.