UPDATE: Elizabeth Roberts of the Royal Gazette in Bermuda is covering the jury trial there of Gary Barket, the Little Rock lawyer arrested for attempting to clear airport security with a gun while leaving the island. The first day of the trial has concluded. She says the case could go to the jury of eight women and four men late tomorrow. It's being tried before the chief justice of Bermuda. The jury will return a verdict after hearing an instruction on the law from the judge.
The key question is whether Barket's intent -- he says and testimony tends to bear out that he had no idea he was carrying guns -- is a defense against the possession charge. The country has a tough posture on firearms violations.
Her afternoon report is on the jump:
By Elizabeth Roberts
An American lawyer travelled to Bermuda from Arkansas with two guns undetected in his luggage - but was caught by an x-ray machine on his way back off the Island. The discovery of the revolver, pistol and ammunition at L.F Wade International Airport resulted in a "bewildered" Gary Barket being arrested and charged under the Firearms Act.
The 61-year-old from Little Rock, Arkansas, pleaded not guilty and went on trial at Supreme Court yesterday (Mon June 23), where a jury heard a taped Police interview conducted after his arrest on January 25. In it, Barket told detectives the guns belonged to his late father-in-law Walter Menkee. He explained that he'd packed them in an old garment bag at his home for safekeeping months before, at the suggestion of his wife. He then forgot all about them until they were discovered by Bermuda airport security officials. "When they opened that suitcase I gotta tell you I almost peed my pants. I mean I could just not believe those were in there...it was one of those stupid, honest odd things to do," he told the Police.
Barket, who described himself as a "securities and business lawyer" explained it was his first trip to Bermuda, but he knew it is illegal to carry guns on a plane. "I wouldn't be stupid enough to do (that). I mean, I practiced law for 36 years. I have a pristine record as a lawyer and a citizen. I would've never done anything stupid like this, or even thought about doing it," he protested.
Opening the case yesterday, Principal Crown counsel Michael McColm said the weapons are a .32mm calibre revolver and a 6.35 mm calibre semi-automatic pistol, with four rounds of 0.32 mm ammunition belonging to the revolver. He told them Barket came to Bermuda from Arkansas on a business trip on January 23 and was departing on January 25 on a Continental Airlines flight destined for New Jersey. The firearms were discovered when a garment bag containing suits - which was in his checked luggage for the plane's hold - was scanned around 2.15 p.m.
In the Police interview, Barket claimed the guns and ammunition belonged to his deceased father-in-law Mr. Menkee, who bought them some time in the 1980s and had a permit for them under Georgia law. He said his father-in-law died in February 1989 and the guns had been stored at his house for the past 15 to 18 years. His wife was re-organising the closet they were in last October or November and asked him to hide them as they had new cleaners they didn't know. Barket told the detectives he travelled to Bermuda from Little Rock via Newark and the luggage containing the weapons went through a "huge machine" there before going into the plane's hold. He only realised they were there when the security check picked them up on his way home. "They unzipped the bag and opened it and I almost fainted. I said 'my God, those are my father-in-law's guns'," Barket told the detectives.
Police firearms expert Constable John Kirkpatrick told the jury the revolver, made by Harrington and Richardson, worked when he test-fired it using Police ammunition. He said the semi-automatic pistol was a Czechoslovakian make, and appeared to be 20-25 years old. It was found minus the magazine that it requires in order to be fired, but did work when he tested it with a generic magazine later on. PC Kirkpatrick added that a receipt was found in the pouch the revolver was in, relating to its purchase by Mr. Menkee with the ammunition - but he could not say what year. In answer to questions from defence lawyer Saul Froomkin QC, PC Kirkpatrick said the firearms did not appear to have been fired recently and as far as he knew they had not been used in any crime in Bermuda. Mr. Froomkin asked: "In your 20-odd years of experience, are you aware of any single case in Bermuda where someone was prosecuted for taking guns out of Bermuda?"
However, the defence lawyer dropped this line of questioning before the Policeman replied, after Mr. McColm objected that it was irrelevant. The jury also heard from several witnesses present when the x-ray machine detected the firearms. Kovan Smith, compliance and training officer for Bermuda Security Group said he could not locate them during his initial search of the bag and could only see some suits and shirts. He therefore ran it through the x-ray machine a second time before taking the bag to a private room where he found two weapons inside a large outside pocket on the garment bag. Mr. Smith agreed with Mr. Froomkin that there did not appear to have been any attempt to conceal them in the bag. He also told the jury that Barket said his wife told him she'd put the weapons in the bag. This evidence was echoed by fellow prosecution witnesses PC Ian Moe and PC Yvette Henry.
Mr. Froomkin suggested that Barket actually said his wife asked him to hide the guns - but Mr. Smith said his recollection was the defendant saying his wife put them there. Quizzed about Barket's reaction to the discovery, he said: "It was concern. He was bewildered." The defendant is on bail, and the case continues.