(CMR)The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has granted William Ian Rivers, who was convicted of the 2017 murder of Mark Travis Seymour, leave to appeal his 35-year minimum sentence. The court said that while it agreed that the minimum term of 30 years should be increased, it should be by two and not five years.
Rivers was sentenced by the trial judge, Justice Williams (Ag.), to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 35 years, for the murder of Seymour, who was shot and killed in broad daylight and in the presence of several people outside Super C’s restaurant in West Bay in 2017.
The minimum sentence of 30 years was increased by five years due to the aggravating circumstances considered by the judge. Rivers applied for leave to appeal because he did not agree with the minimum term of 35 years imposed by the judge.
The Court of Appeal ruled that there were mitigating circumstances, which must be weighed against the aggravating circumstances of an exceptional nature, even if they do not justify a reduction in the minimum term of 30 years.
Rivers was also sentenced to 8 years imprisonment on his plea of guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm and to 3 years imprisonment for unlawful use of that gun concurrently. The only issue at trial was his plea of guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, a plea which the jury rejected after hearing conflicting medical evidence as to his state of mind.
Under Schedule 12 (3) of the Conditional Release of Prisoners Regulations, 2016, a period of 30 years is the minimum term for a person convicted of murder before he is eligible for conditional release unless there are extenuating or aggravating circumstances, exceptional in nature, in which case the court may impose a shorter or longer period of incarceration, respectively.
According to the judgment, the murder took place during the day outside a restaurant when other people were nearby. At about 2 pm on 28th January 2017, Mark Travis Seymour was standing outside in the veranda area of Super C’s restaurant, West Bay. He was drinking a beer and talking to others. Rivers approached him, riding a bicycle, and immediately drew a gun from his waistband and fired at him.
Mark Seymour tried to run away, holding his neck. The appellant fired two more shots, and the victim collapsed to the ground, asking, “Ian, why are you doing this, man?”
Rivers then turned the gun towards a female bystander, threatening her, “If you say anything.” He then stood over Mark Seymour as he lay helpless on the ground and fired three further shots, saying, “You deserve this,” or words to that effect. Another witness heard him say that this is what “we does dogs”.
The appellant rode away from the scene back to his house, which was nearby. As he went, he said, “I’m making sure you’re dead.”
Rivers also threatened another witness pointing his gun at him. As the man ran off, he heard a shot and then two further shots. A female who was walking past Rivers' partner’s residence shortly after the shooting was also shot at by Rivers. From the veranda, Rivers asked where she was going, and began to walk towards her, loading his gun.
She was afraid for her life and ran back towards her house. As she did so, she heard three shots and hid in some nearby bushes, the judgment stated.
When police officers arrived at the scene, the victim was already dead. Rivers was seen in the front of his residence nearby, and the police heard four gunshots. Rivers returned to his house, and there was a standoff for a period of about 2 ½ hours with the police as he remained inside with other members of his family, including his wife and children. He eventually surrendered.
The police recovered 22 spent shell casings from the vicinity of the house, and the firearm was recovered from the floor of the bathroom next to an empty bottle of rum with four live rounds in the cylinder. There were a further three live rounds on the bathroom floor.
Rivers admitted shooting and killing his victim, stating that he believed he was one of a number of people who had been circling around his house day and night to kill him. He said he believed that the victim had been paying his girlfriend for sexual favors, and he had killed his victim before the victim had had a chance to kill him.
The Court of Appeal judgment stated that although the jury rejected the defense of diminished responsibility, there was evidence of an unstable, depressed personality. There was an entry in his medical records of depression on 18 July 2007 and he had received both anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety medication from February to July 2017.
At trial, one doctor diagnosed schizophrenia while another diagnosed Antisocial Personality Disorder, Alcohol and Cannabis misuse disorders, and “Polysubstance Intoxication.” Rivers also had only one previous conviction for violence in 2008, for which he received a suspended sentence.