Recaptured prison escapee Mark Royden Williams, called ‘Smallie,’ and Sherwin Nero, called ‘Catty,’ were yesterday both indicted for the 2007 murder of Kumar Singh, called ‘Mango Man,’ but their attorney, Nigel Hughes, urged that they be discharged due to the “long time” they have had to wait for a trial.
The men, who are charged with murdering Singh on August 30, 2007 at Lot 51 Craig Milne, Cove and John, East Coast Demerara, appeared before Justice Brassington Reynolds at the High Court in Georgetown.
A third man, Andrew Philander, called ‘Junior’ and ‘Gadget,’ was also arrested for the murder but he perished in a fire set by inmates at the Camp Street Prison last year March.
The men did not, however, plead as Hughes made the application for them to be discharged. Hughes argued that because of the length of the delay on the part of the state, his clients can no longer be afforded “a fair trial within a reasonable time” as provided for by Article 144 (1) of the Constitution.
It states, “If any person is charged with a criminal offence, then, unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.”
He submitted that this amounts to a breach of the men’s rights. He said that the accused were first charged during July of 2008, and bemoaned the years that have elapsed before the start of their trial.
Counsel further observed that over the last decade, his clients have had to wait five years before their matters reached the High Court. He said that they were committed in 2012.
Hughes also cited a recent decision by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which noted in a specific case before it that awaiting trial for six years contravened the provisions of article 144 (1).
“That length of time was not considered to be reasonable,” he said as he noted that in his clients’ case, the delay is “egregious.”
It was against this backdrop that he begged the judge to discharge the indictment levelled against the accused.
He added further that in the case of Nero, an alibi witness, who was critical to his defence, died two years ago. Hughes resultantly questioned the fairness of his client being tried.
Counsel said that Nero commenced proceedings against the state on September 22, in a motion by which he argues that a delay in bringing him to trial now, after nine years, is unfair. That matter comes up for hearing on Friday.
Given a chance to respond to Hughes’ submissions, lead prosecutor Shawnette Austin, asked the court for time to so do, while explaining that she had no instructions regarding the defence’s request.
The judge, in response, however, said that while he was mindful of Hughes’ submissions, he doesn’t get the sense that the CCJ was aiming at any arithmetical formula regarding “delay,” but rather that the court’s decision turned on peculiar facts of the particular case.
In the circumstances, the judge noted that without usurping the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), his ruling on Hughes’ application would be deferred to allow the state time to respond.
The court suggested, also, and Hughes agreed, that before a decision is made regarding discharging the indictment, it might be prudent to await the outcome of the motion filed before the Chief Justice.
Noting, however, that Williams has no such application before the court, counsel asked the judge to discharge him.
Justice Reynolds, however, said that both are to be remanded and adjourned the matter until November 23 for reports regarding Hughes’ application to have the charge withdrawn.
By that time, both the prosecution and defence were ordered to lay over written responses to each other’s submissions to the court.
Three years ago, the matter had come up for trial but had to be aborted after Williams demanded a new lawyer, causing the one who had been assigned to him by the state to withdraw.
As a result, Justice Navindra Singh, before whom the matter was set to commence, aborted the trial. He had, however, explained to Williams that it would have taken a lot of time to assign another lawyer to him.
At the June 19, 2014 hearing, Justice Singh had asked Nero and Philander if they preferred to have their trial separate from Williams but they refused. The judge told them that it would push back the start of the trial.
While Hughes is representing Nero, he told the court that he is appearing amicus on Williams’ behalf.
The state’s case is being presented by Austin, in association with Lisa Cave and Tiffini Lyken.
Williams is one of two persons convicted and sentenced to death for the February 17, 2008 Bartica massacre in which 12 men were killed. A jury had found him guilty of seven of the 12 murders and guilty of manslaughter for the other killings.
For the murders, he was read the death penalty and handed down life sentences on the lesser charges.
Williams is believed to be the mastermind of the July 9 Camp Street prison fire and jailbreak.