The trial of Mark Royden Williams, called, ‘Smallie’ and Sherwin Nero, called ‘Catty,’ for the 2007 murder of Kumar Singh, also known as ‘Mango Man,’ is no longer likely to commence during the current criminal session of the Demerara Assizes.
When the case was called for the second time yesterday, attorney Nigel Hughes, who is representing the men, informed Justice Brassington Reynolds that Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George SC is likely to rule on Nero’s application for the charge to be thrown out by the end of the year, or at the beginning of 2018.
Nero’s motion is for the capital charge levelled against him to be thrown out because of the lengthy time he has been incarcerated awaiting trial. He is claiming a breach of his constitutional right to a fair trial, within a reasonable time, as afforded by Article 144 (1) of the Constitution. That provision states, “If any person is charged with a criminal offence, then, unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.”
Hughes explained that arguments in this application are in the process of being closed, and a ruling is not likely until the end of the year, or perhaps early next year.
In the circumstances, Justice Reynolds, before whom the murder trial was set to commence, noted that it would be prudent to await the Chief Justice’s ruling before proceeding with the criminal indictment against Nero.
The judge said it would be a waste of judicial time to proceed before the constitutional court pronounces on the application, and then find that the ruling does not support the trial which may have commenced.
In the circumstances, the judge said that commencement of the matter will be deferred.
Moreover, given that a decision is not likely until the end of the year, Justice Reynolds posited that the case before him may have to await the succeeding January assizes, or some other succeeding session, as the current one ends in December.
When the charge was read to the men on October 17, they did not plead, as Hughes made an application for them to be discharged, while arguing that the length of the delay on the part of the state, contravenes his clients’ rights provided for by Article 144 (1).
As a result, he submitted that his clients can no longer be afforded “a fair trial within a reasonable time.”
He had said that the accused were first charged during July of 2008, and bemoaned the years that have elapsed before the start of their trial. He 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 noted further that in the case of Nero, an alibi witness, who was critical to his defence, died two years ago. He resultantly questioned the fairness of his client being tried.
Subsequent to Hughes’ submissions, Justice Reynolds had noted that he would not be usurping the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and had given the prosecution time to respond, before making any pronouncement on counsel’s arguments.
At yesterday’s hearing, the judge said he had received from both sides, the written submissions requested.
Noting that Williams had no application before the constitutional court as Nero, Hughes had asked the judge to discharge him.
Justice Reynolds, however, ordered that both men be remanded until the Chief Justice rules on Nero’s motion.
The charge against Williams and Nero is that they murdered Singh on August 30, 2007 at Lot 51 Craig Milne, Cove and John, East Coast Demerara,
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.
Appearing for the state, were Prosecutors Shawnette Austin, Lisa Cave and Tiffini Lyken.
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.
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.