Johnson v R

CourtCourt of Appeal (Bahamas)
JudgeBlair-Kerr, P.,Duffus, J.A.,Luckhoo, J.A.
Judgment Date11 March 1980
Neutral CitationBS 1980 CA 5
Date11 March 1980
Docket NumberCriminal Side No. 29 of 1979

Court of Appeal

Blair-Kerr, P.; Duffus, J.A.; Luckhoo, J.A.

Criminal Side No. 29 of 1979


Criminal Law - Appeal against conviction — Murder

Judgment of the Court:

On November 8, 1979, the appellant Gregory Alfred Johnson was convicted after trial by a judge and jury upon an indictment charging that on March 16, 1979, at New Providence, he murdered Irwin Edgecombe. The appellant was sentenced to death. He now appeals against his conviction.


The case for the prosecution was that the victim (referred to in the evidence as Spanky) died as a result of multiple stab wounds inflicted by the appellant in revenge for an injury inflicted by Spanky with a screwdriver to the appellant's back. The evidence adduced at the trial disclosed that some two months before March, 1979, the appellant had taken away a knife from Spanky to prevent him from injuring one of his (appellant's) friends. The appellant did not return the knife to Spanky and on March 15, 1979, Spanky met the appellant and demanded the return of the knife. The appellant told Spanky that he had thrown the knife away. Spanky then attacked the appellant with a screwdriver inflicting an injury to his back. On the following evening the appellant, accompanied by his girl-friend Gaynell Deveaux, one of his friends Garreth Alleyne and the latter's girlfriend Deborah Williams, went to see a movie at the Sunshine Theatre. They sat together leaving two vacant seats between the appellant's seat and the aisle. Alleyne sat next to the appellant. About five minutes later Spanky and another man came into the theatre and they occupied the two vacant seats. Spanky sat next to the appellant. Alleyne exchanged seats with the appellant, at the appellant's request. The appellant then went to the supervisor of the theatre and borrowed a knife from him under the pretext that he wished to use it to free his girlfriend's dress which had got hooked in the seat. The appellant then returned to where Spanky was sitting and stabbed him in the region of his chest. Spanky ran out of the theatre and the appellant ran after him. Spanky eventually collapsed some distance away from the theatre. There was blood on the floor of the theatre and Constable Beneby, who had been summoned to the scene shortly after the incident, followed a trail of blood extending from the theatre across Blue Hill Road to the spot where Spanky's body lay in a pool of blood. Constable Beneby examined the body and observed a number of wounds on the upper part of the chest, in the region of the shoulder and near to the left-ear. Spanky appeared to be dead. The body-was removed to the Princess Margaret Hospital where it was examined by Dr. Tan. Later that night, in fact it was shortly after midnight, a police photographer went to the scene and took photographs. On the same day the-photographer went to the mortuary of the Princess Margaret Hospital where he took photographs of the deceased's body. These photographs which were put in evidence at the trial disclosed the position of the wounds on the deceased's body. At the trial the Crown did not adduce the testimony of the pathologist who performed a postmortem examination on the body of the deceased but relied upon the evidence otherwise adduced to establish the fact that the deceased died as a result of the stab wounds inflicted on him by the appellant. One of the two grounds of appeal advanced by the appellant was that the learned trial judge misdirected the jury when he said that in his opinion the absence of testimony of a pathologist made no difference in this case. This ground of appeal will be dealt with in due course.


When interviewed at Criminal Investigation Department by Det. Cpl. Hanna on the morning after the incident, the appellant stated that Spanky had a screw-driver when he was in the theatre and that he stabbed Spanky before Spanky stabbed him. The appellant gave a cautioned statement to Cpl. Hanna in the course of which he said that after obtaining a knife from the supervisor of the theatre he saw Spanky holding a screwdriver. He was uncertain as to what Spanky might do with the screwdriver and, accordingly, before, Spanky had any time to do anything to him, he (appellant) “throw my weight on him and start jooking him with the knife I had. Spanky ran out the show. Some people start running behind him, so I run behind him too.”


The appellant testified that when Spanky sat next to him in the theatre he switched seats with his friend Alleyne as he wanted to avoid Spanky. He got up from his seat with the intention of going to the bathroom and when he went by Spanky, Spanky attempted to trip him by putting out his feet. He then went to the supervisor and procured the knife because he had previously been stabbed by Spanky and he did not want to take any more chances with him. On returning to his...

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