“Perfect Match”--Expert Strengthens Crown’s Case

Javon Liburd, Staff Reporter | 2 Opinions
Published: July 06, 2017 10:43 am AST
Tarik Aaron and Leshaughn Smith at court Thursday February 4, 2016
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
An investment made by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Director of Public Prosecution’s Office, to bring in an expert from the United States, may have just strengthened the crown’s case against accused, Tarik Aaron and Leshaughn Smith.

According to the testimony of the expert, Microscopist, Jason Beckert, the OneMart bag found at sea with drugs, and the bag straps found on the boat the men occupied, are a perfect match.

Beckert, a Trace Evidence Examiner, employed with Microtrace based in Illinois, USA, appeared before the Magistrate's Court yesterday, July 5, where Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards presided.

Both men are charged with possession of $24M worth of cocaine, after they were allegedly found at sea by local and US marine officers on February 3, 2016.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charge and denied having any knowledge of the drugs found.

In an earlier appearance, the court was informed of the crown’s inability to accommodate, physically or via video link, the expert witness, as a result of it being too expensive. The crown then attempted to enter into evidence the report from the expert on the items, but this was quickly challenged by the defense, who argued that the report produced by the expert is only admissible if the analyst gives his expert evidence to the court in person, or via video link.

Meanwhile, in Beckert’s testimony, he informed the court that after various examinations conducted on both the straps and the bag, he failed to find any difference between the two.

Beckert indicated that based on the jagged edges of both items, the handles were torn from the bag.

With that information, he disclosed that his examinations revealed matching pairs of ends between the straps and the bag, adding that this can be described as a "physical fit".

“Given the results of the examination, this is the highest level of association that can be reached in any trace level examination. This can be described as a physical fit, where two objects were previously joined as one object.”

The expert further informed the court that findings of this matter are extremely rare, stating, “It is very unusual to have that much physical matches between two items from a scene.”

Yesterday’s trial also saw Marine Customs Officer, Brian Farrington taking the stand.

The court heard that Farrington was the lead officer on the night in question, when the men were found and arrested at sea.

Farrington told the court that while on routine duties on sea with officers from the United States Virgin Islands, sometime around 11:00 pm, a vessel was seen coming towards them. Upon their decision to approach the vessel, having turned around their own boat, he indicated that the vessel disappeared, as the lights that were once lit were turned off.

He stated that sounds of engine coming from the vessel were heard sometime after, adding that they pursued the boat, guided by coordinates of their navigation system.

The court heard that somewhere in between Frenchman’s Cay and Thatch Island, the officers observed individual floating bricks in the water, along with some in a strapless OneMart bag, and others in a cardboard box.

Having approached the boat, Farrington stated that the men were at it’s rear tending to the engines, that were giving issues at the time.

Once brought to shore, the officer stated that a search of the boat was conducted, which resulted in the find of the bag straps on board.

Aaron is represented by Mr. Patrick Thompson, while Smith is represented by Mrs. Valerie Stephens-Gordon and Ms. Stacey Able.

The matter will resume on September 6.

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