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Cathy Lee Clayson is photographed at her Ajax, Ontario home on Dec. 21, 2011. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Cathy Lee Clayson is photographed at her Ajax, Ontario home on Dec. 21, 2011. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

'Circus' court to blame for husband's acquittal in Jamaica: Ontario woman Add to ...

Cathy Lee Clayson began screaming the moment a Jamaican jury found her husband, Paul Martin, not guilty of slitting her throat on a lonely road outside Montego Bay.

As Mr. Martin hugged his lawyers to celebrate the end of his year-long ordeal, his 38-year-old wife quickly decoded a message implicit in the verdict – the jurors felt she was a scheming liar.

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“I was just wailing and shaking,” Ms. Clayson said in an interview, speaking publicly for the first time. “I remember sitting down and I just wanted to throw up. I got very emotional and had an outburst.”

The verdict ended a bizarre series of events plucked from the pages of a mystery novel; a tale of a quiet, middle-class couple whose Christmas vacation in 2010 ended with them accusing one another of an unprovoked knife attack.

Following the attack, Mr. Martin – a mild-mannered man with a passion for teaching – was arrested. He spent most of 2011 fending for himself in a small Jamaican jail cell crammed with a dozen offenders, unable to communicate with his three children.

Ms. Clayson, a mid-level manager at a Toronto RBC bank branch, returned to Canada after recovering from a six-inch gash to her throat. She began to steel herself to testify at her husband’s trial.

The bloodshed took place on Dec. 23, 2010, just three hours before Mr. Martin and Ms. Clayson had been scheduled to board a plane back to Toronto. On the way to the airport, they drove several kilometres down the coast to enable Mr. Martin to shoot a few, last photographs.

At this point, their narratives diverge dramatically.

Ms. Clayson described waiting in the front passenger seat while her husband zipped open his camera bag in the back seat. “The next thing, I felt like a stick was whipping my neck,” she said. “At the same time that I was grabbing my neck, he went at me again.” Somehow or other, her thumb was cut by the knife.

Ms. Clayson said she leapt from the SUV, bleeding profusely, and ran for her life. Mr. Martin quickly caught up to her and carried her back to the car, she said, where he tried unsuccessfully to strangle her. Ms. Clayson said that Mr. Martin drove on for several minutes, holding tightly to her wrist while she begged for her life.

“‘Just get me to the hospital,’” she alleges she told Mr. Martin. “ ‘I’ll say anything. I’ll say that we got robbed.’ I thought: I’m done. He’s going to finish me off or dump my body and I’m just going to bleed out.”

She said that after spotting some people on the side of the road, she desperately tried to honk the horn, wrenched the passenger door open and stuck her feet out in hope of attracting attention. Then, she said she grabbed the steering wheel, hoping to crash the car. As Mr. Martin tried to regain control of the SUV, Ms. Clayton said, she jumped out the open door and her husband sped away.

Ms. Clayson was rushed to hospital by a taxi driver who had witnessed the incident. On the way, a pair of panicking passengers wailed prayers for Ms. Clayson’s recovery. “It was like an out-of-body experience,” she said.

It is not in dispute that, a few minutes later, Mr. Martin told a police officer that a robber had cut Ms. Clayson’s throat while he was taking photographs. Mr. Martin described the robber to police in detail and explained that he had left his bleeding wife by the roadside so he could rush to find help.

However, several weeks after his arrest, Mr. Martin changed his account. He said that, at Ms. Clayson’s urging, he had fabricated the robbery story in hopes the couple could exit Jamaica quickly. In reality, Mr. Martin said in his new account, he had fought for his own life after Ms. Clayson attacked him with a knife. He said that, during the struggle, Ms. Clayson’s throat had been accidentally slashed.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Martin reiterated his innocence and said forensic evidence corroborated his narrative fully.

“This woman is saying that she leapt out of a vehicle going more than 50 kilometres per hour – and I’m looking at a medical report that says she got a scratch on her elbow?” Mr. Martin said. “That type of evidence played out throughout the entire trial. It was just fact after fact that completely discredited her story.”

Concerned by what she felt was a lackadaisical police investigation, Ms. Clayson hired a Jamaican lawyer to safeguard her interests. At one point, she recalled her family helping police comb the bush in search of the missing knife. “We were living in the twilight zone down there,” Ms. Clayson said. “We didn’t know what to expect. You didn’t know who to believe; who to trust.”

Mr. Martin was reluctant to go into minute detail about the happenings that day, saying he really had nothing new that he wanted to say right now that hasn’t already come out in a Toronto Star article and an interview with Global TV . “It’s her prerogative to go off and say what she feels she needs to say,” Mr. Martin said. “Personally, I have said everything I need to say. I’ve declared my innocence from the beginning.”

Mr. Martin recalled his trial as being a solemn occasion, presided over by an experienced judge and featuring top-flight prosecutors and defence counsel.

“Cathy can go on with whatever she wants to go on about, but the offence she had was the best possible offence that country could deliver,” Mr. Martin said. “It was extremely professionally done. ... I have said that the long and short of it was that I’m the victim,” he said. “I was the one who was attacked. The evidence spoke for itself and I was unanimously acquitted. End of story.”

However, Ms. Clayson described the trial as a surreal event in which jury members dozed off for minutes at a time and a defence lawyer habitually padded about the courtroom in her bare feet. “The jurors were simple, everyday people,” Ms. Clayson added. “A lot of it was way over their heads.

“The courthouse was very old and run down,” Ms. Clayson said. “I stood for three days giving evidence with no air conditioning and 95-degree heat. ... It was just so unprofessional. It was like a circus in there.”

She said that, according to Jamaican rules of evidence, Mr. Martin was permitted to give a 15-minute oral statement without being questioned afterwards by lawyers for either side.

Ms. Clayson said the defence worked hard to portray her as a spoiled, temperamental jet-setter who prefers her career to her children. The defence, she said, also maintained that she was angry at her husband for removing her as the beneficiary on his insurance policy.

Ms. Clayson said the prosecution alleged that Mr. Martin had been rocked when his wife asked for a divorce shortly before their trip to Jamaica; and that he was convinced she had had an affair with one of his friends. “He couldn’t accept that our marriage wasn’t working,” Ms. Clayson said.

Yet, with the jury showing signs of turning against her, Ms. Clayson prepared for the possibility of an acquittal. “I know I was telling the truth and that’s all that matters,” she said. “There was no justice.”

But as Mr. Martin points out, the jury found otherwise.

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