High Court says state violated Basil Morgan’s right to trial in reasonable time

-costs awarded

The High Court on Friday ruled that the length of time the state took to try former accused, Basil Morgan for the 2009 murder of Woodette Roberts, breached his rights to a fair trial within reasonable time.

The ruling was handed down by Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall, who also granted Morgan a total of $500,000 bail on a number of other charges.

As a condition for bail, the judge ordered Morgan to report to the Ruimveldt Police Station every Friday at 10am, except for days he may be required to attend Court.

Ordering the state to pay $200,000 in costs to him, Justice Morris-Ramlall also ruled that it affords Morgan a trial on the additional charges by January 18, failing which they are to be stayed.

Last November, Morgan filed a motion, claiming that the state had breached his constitutional right to a fair trial within reasonable time, though he had been committed to stand trial for murder three years earlier.

Basil Morgan

In his motion against the Attorney General, Morgan argued through his lawyer, Lyndon Amsterdam, that there was substantial delay in affording him a trial as guaranteed by Article 144 (1) of the Constitution.

Apart from the capital offence, the other charges levelled against Morgan are attempted murder, two counts of discharging a loaded firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, wounding with intent and setting fire to the Supreme Court Building.

The judge, in her ruling noted that the state had failed to explain why Morgan had not been afforded a trial on any of the offences, even though he was indicted by the Director of Public Prosecutions for these offences since October, 2014 and had been on remand since December, 2010.

The applicant was arrested on December 10, 2010 and charged with murdering Roberts on November 4, 2009, at Dora, Soesdyke-Linden Highway. On October 24, 2014 Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan committed him to stand trial at the High Court.  The trial started on July 11th, 2017 and on August 7th, Justice James Bovell-Drakes cleared Morgan of murdering Roberts, after upholding a no-case submission made by Amsterdam.

Justice Drakes had initially overruled Amsterdam’s submission, but subsequently ruled in counsel’s favour, noting that after reviewing the evidence, he found that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that Morgan was in any way responsible for Roberts’ murder.

Resultantly, the judge directed the jury hearing the case, to unanimously return a formal not guilty verdict to the charge.

The judge had said that with the exception of one state witness, whose testimony was challenged under cross-examination, no other witness testified to seeing Morgan at the scene of the crime.

Referencing the prosecution’s case that Morgan was acting in a joint enterprise, the judge said that when he looked at the evidence, he found no unlawful act of which the man was a part, nor was there any witness produced by the state, to so substantiate.

“Out of nothing, comes nothing,” the judge had declared, stressing that the state failed in discharging its burden of proving the case against Morgan beyond reasonable doubt.

Though cleared of the capital charge, Morgan remained imprisoned up until last Friday, on all the other charges.

It was the state’s case that on the day in question, the former-accused, in the company of others, murdered Roberts in the course or furtherance of a robbery.

Morgan was initially charged jointly with Colin Jones, called “Bonnie,” Randy Mars, called “Ratty,” Jafar Simpson, and David Anthony Watson, who all pleaded guilty earlier this year, to the charge of manslaughter for the unlawful killing of Roberts.

Morgan had, however, always maintained his innocence, and had made clear his intention of challenging the charge at trial.

The other members of the gang, led by Jones, admitted to unlawfully killing Roberts, and were sentenced for this, as well as their roles in a series of other 2009 crimes; including manslaughter, the attempted murder of policemen and setting a section of the Supreme Court on fire.

Jones was sentenced to 25 years, after copping to 12 charges, including three counts of manslaughter, the attempted murder of policemen and setting fire to the Supreme Court. Mars, Simpson and Watson, however, were each sentenced to 19 years in jail after pleading guilty to their respective roles in the crimes.

Roberts was killed by men dressed in black and pretending to be police officers who stopped the gold-coloured Tacoma in which he was travelling. The men are reported to have tied Roberts up before hijacking the Tacoma.

An autopsy revealed that he died from asphyxiation.

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