HIS OWN views “notwithstanding” High Court judge, Brian Cottle last week ruled that the prosecution of two men accused of the shooting death of Redemption Sharpes resident, Lloyd Samuel will be stopped.
Bound by a separate older case ruled upon by the highest court, His Majesty’s Privy Council, Cottle ordered a stay in the prosecution against Che ‘Ragga’ Bute and Azari ‘Heffer’ Ash.
The duo walked from the courtroom and into the arms of their crying mothers.
For the past 11 years they had been incarcerated.
The two men were first arrested on April 24, 2010, for the December 25, 2007 murder of Samuel. Their arrest was precipitated by the evidence of witness Uroy ‘Laybay’ Robinson who told the police that he was in the same house as the two men when he heard them plotting to murder Samuel.
They were convicted at their first trial in July 2011 for murder and several firearm offences and were consequently sentenced by Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle to life imprisonment. They appealed the conviction and the Court of Appeal quashed it, sending the matter back to the lower court for a retrial.
When the second trial rolled around, the prosecution’s key witness, Uroy ‘Laybay’ Robinson had been shot and killed. The prosecution sought to have Robinson’s evidence from the first trial used in the second trial. Delays resulted because it was difficult to find a time convenient to all counsels.
“Eventually, the matter came on for trial on the 6th of November, 2017. This trial ended on the 20th of November, when the members of the jury were unable to agree on a verdict,” Justice Cottle noted.
Before another trial could be heard after the matter was listed again in 2019, counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste and Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell objected to it.
They wrote submissions, applying for a stay in the prosecution. The prosecution responded, and the defendants replied.
The ruling on the application came last Friday, September 23.
After working through a number of legal arguments on several points raised by Bute’s and Ash’s lawyers, the Judge referenced a Privy Council case.
A judge in that case stated that “the complaint here was not just on the ground of delay, but also on the ground that it was quite wrong that these appellants should be put on trial, not for the second but for the third time after so many years. And, when one conviction had already been quashed and one jury had been unable to agree on a verdict.” Further, “It may be contrary to due process and unacceptable as a separate ground from the delay, that the prosecution having failed twice, should continue to try to secure a conviction.”
The combination of two factors caused the Council to stay the third trial in that case.
“I am of the firm view that this (murder) was a very serious crime. I am of the firm view that it is in the public interest and in the interest of justice that the matter be tested and the verdict obtained,” Cottle stated.
“That said, I am confronted by the decision,” of the previous Privy Council case, Cottle noted.
“I accept that each case must be looked at on its own merits but I struggle to find any grounds to distinguish the instant case,” he pointed out further.
“And so, my own views notwithstanding, I must follow the precedent laid down by the learned lord of His Majesty’s Privy Council.”
Therefore, “I concluded that the combination of two factors means that it would be contrary to due process to permit the continuation of this prosecution. I therefore grant the application and order a stay of the prosecution against both accused men.”