(CMR) The illegal firearm possession trial of Ultra Lounge Bar & Grill owner, Kirk Richard Munroe, has ended with a hung jury after more than a day of deliberations. The jury went out on Thursday afternoon around mid-day and returned on Friday after 2:00 pm indicating to the judge that they were unable to make a decision.
Hung trails normally mean there will be a retrial. He is back in court for a mention hearing on March 25.
Kirk Richard Munroe's defense team ran what many referred to as the Cayman Marl Road defense strategy where he claims that he was fearful of turning in a gun he claims he found because of potential information reaching the public via CMR coverage.
That part of his defense raised eyebrows in the courtroom.
Cayman Marl Road's name was mentioned multiple times by the defense stating that he was terrified that if the told an untrustworthy police officer it could have been posted on CMR and he would then be targeted by criminals.
His defense was that he found the gun, went to Casa in the Strand, and then took it home where he wrapped it up in a blue t-shirt for some five days before the search warrant was issued on August 3, 2021. He also placed an additional magazine clip in a Kirk Freeport bag.
He was facing two counts of possession of an unlicensed firearm and possession of unlicensed ammunition. The gun was found with 6 rounds in the gun and a spare magazine clip with an additional 12 rounds.
Defense attorney Amelia Fosuhene presented her closing arguments on Tuesday in the three-week trial stating that although Munroe had admittedly physical possession of the firearm he had a defense of duress of circumstance.
Court observers noted that this was the first time that duress of circumstance has been used as a defense for a firearm offense which is one of the few offenses in the Cayman Islands that carries a mandatory sentence. Defendants face ten years imprisonment if they plead not guilty and are found guilty at trial. If they admit to the offense they received a mandatory sentence of seven years.
Munroe had claimed that he found the gun alongside his business premise and was fearful for himself, the patrons of his night club and his family that whoever the gun belonged to would target him. Fosuhene shared that Munroe did not report or turn the gun in to the police because of this fear which she argued was reasonable for him in the circumstances.
During his police interview, on August 4, he shared that he had gone to unplug a speaker box to the far right of his property when he saw the firearm and picked it up. He also shared that he had made unsuccessful attempts to reach three different police officers that he trusted but had been unsuccessful in doing so.
The defense submitted that just 20 days earlier there was a mass shooting at Vic Bar which caused him to be fearful of his own safety. Finding the weapon on his premises made him think that he could be a target of a similar attack.
He said that there had been a robbery across the street at Cayman Prep School and that some 20 days earlier there were two violent mass shooting attacks at Globe's Bar and Vic's Bar that left several men dead.
His defense strategy also blamed the police for not carrying out a thorough enough investigation claiming that they could have corroborated aspects of his account but refused to. One example was that they did not check CCTV footage.
However, police testified that by the time that they were told of the CCTV they were also informed that the cameras would have already erased any relevant footage that could have confirmed or denied Munroe's account.
The prosecution argued that the timeline for when he found the gun and what he subsequently did with it means that this unique defense could not be applicable – in other words, they argued that too much time had passed and it was no longer an “imminent” threat.
They argued that he would have had ample opportunity to hand the gun to the authorities but chose not to do so.
During the summing up instructions Justice Cheryll Richards said that the threat must be operative at the time of the offense which was on August 3, 2021. The judge needed to ask themselves if the threat was imminent at the time.
She also reminded them that the test to be applied was whether in those circumstances a person of reasonable firmness with similar characteristics to the defendant would have good cause to be fearful. and would they have acted as he did.