Letter of the Day | Get tougher with gun laws
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In referring to the outcome in the recently concluded Khajeel Mais murder trial, someone in social media commented that "it should not be so easy to defeat justice", a position with which most would concur.
It is a no-brainer that forensic evidence from a firearm suspected to be the murder weapon can profoundly affect, either way, the outcome of a murder trial.
The absence of such evidence can defeat justice, and the ease with which such evidence can be prevented from being obtained and presented for examination in court constitute an awful weakness in the justice system.
If firearm forensic evidence had played a part in the Mais murder trial, even with the collapse of the 'eyewitness' testimony, the accused's walking free would not have caused the widespread outrage we witnessed. The outcome would be more palatable.
Make no mistake, the perception of the public matters. Confidence and trust in the justice system are vital for good order.
How can this awful weakness be eliminated?
Unfortunately, most gun homicides are committed by gunmen with illegal weapons, which seldom fall into the hands of law enforcement. But a licensed firearm of interest in a murder investigation shouldn't so easily escape scrutiny by law enforcement.
In a murder case, what if, instead of the joke penalty of $1 million or one year imprisonment, there was an automatic 25-year jail term (with no monetary alternative fine) for failing to turn over a firearm deemed by the police to be of interest in the case. (Note that even a gun which tests show is not the murder weapon can aid in the investigation, but first, you must be able to lay hands on the gun.
"Drastic penalty," some would say, but aren't we dealing with murder? What's more drastic than that?
The guilty one(s)!
What if the suggestion alluded to became reality? If a gun owner knows that his or her gun is not the murder weapon, rather than go to jail for 25 years, the gun would be surrendered. When the gun owner knows that his or her gun is the murder weapon, that owner will opt to turn over the gun and gamble (if he or she is the accused) on the outcome of the trial, knowing that proving the gun is the murder weapon is no proof that the accused fired the gun at the scene of the murder or was even present at the murder scene.
A drastic penalty provision to address withholding a firearm of interest in a case of murder could virtually ensure the elimination of an awful weakness in the justice system and lead to firearm forensic evidence being available to the court, bringing or enhancing fairness to the conduct of the trial. Fairness is akin to that highest of ideals - justice.
To buttress the imperative of getting hold of firearm(s) of interest in murder cases, the State should, except in the rarest of circumstances, never accept a claim that the gun is lost or stolen after the murder is committed.
Tampering with a firearm of interest in a murder case to remove DNA, fingerprints, or gunpowder residue, or damaging the barrel of the gun to alter its signature should be deterred with a 25-year jail term for person(s) involved.
Should the gun go missing in police custody? You guessed it - 25 years for the guilty ones!
Closing off routes of escape augurs well for justice.
PATRICK D. ROBINSON