Court to rule on evidence against lawyer in causing death trial

-after ordering prosecution to close case due to missing testimony

Keisha Chase

Presiding magistrate Allan Wilson yesterday ordered the prosecution to close its case against attorney Keisha Chase, who is on trial for causing the death of a pedestrian two years ago.

As a result, the magistrate is expected to rule tomorrow on whether a prima facie case has been made out against Chase, whose attorneys made a no-case submission, saying that the prosecution failed to prove the key elements of the charge.

Chase is charged with causing the death of Julian Leitch by dangerous driving, on November 10th, 2015 on Duncan Street, Georgetown.

Julian Leitch

When the trial resumed before Magistrate Wilson yesterday, there was a dispute between Police Prosecutor Vishnu Hunt and Chase’s attorneys, Mark Waldron and Roger Yearwood, over a missing part of a witness statement.

The disagreement related to the evidence of Constable 21434 Kwesi Carmichael, who began his testimony on January 8th, based on investigations he would have conducted in relation to the matter. Carmichael’s testimony was suspended on that date, however, after it was observed that there was a missing page, which, according to the witness, contained measurements relating to the point of impact, among other things. Carmichael’s evidence was suspended and the prosecution was ordered to produce the missing page.

On January 10th, when the trial continued, the prosecutor at the time, Shawn Gonsalves, produced a copy of the statement and noted that the original was at the chambers of the Attorney General (AG).

However, Chase’s attorneys observed that the statement produced by the prosecutor and that which was served on the defendant during related proceedings in the High Court were two entirely different things.

In response, the prosecutor told the court that the original file was sent from the chambers to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to the AG’s chambers, and that the prosecution was never in possession of the original file, only a copy.

He noted that despite the absence of the original statement and accident report booklet, Carmichael should be allowed to continue his evidence and the court should decide what weight to place on it. He reiterated that when a request was made to the AG’s Chambers for the original file, only a copy was given.

Magistrate Wilson, however, noted that the original document ought to be produced so that the court could verify that the document existed and that the copy came from the original.

Prosecutor Hunt then requested an opportunity to discuss the matter with the DPP but the request was denied by the magistrate, who noted that the court may very well be undertaking an exercise of futility.

The magistrate later stated that all attempts to get the documents ordered to be produced from the AG’s Chambers have been futile and that no one seems to be able to say where the documents are. He then ruled that the absence of the documents rendered it impossible for Carmichael to continue his testimony or for Corporal Rockcliffe, who photographed the scene of the accident. After the defence declined to cross-examine him, Carmichael’s evidence was deemed complete. The prosecution’s final witness, Mark Plant, was absent as he was not located. The prosecution was then ordered to close its case.

Yearwood then made a no-case submission, stating that the prosecution had failed to prove the key elements of the charge. As a result, he urged the court to not call upon the defendant to lead a defence.

Police prosecutor Hunt, in his submissions, relied on the evidence led by the prosecution.

The matter was subsequently adjourned until tomorrow.

On February 29th, 2016, the DPP advised that charges be brought against Chase for the offence of causing death, almost four months after the fatal accident.

The matter was then called on May 9th, 2016 before Magistrate Wilson and Chase’s attorneys, Murseline Bacchus and Kim Kyte-John, told the court then that after receiving statements in relation to the charge, they observed inaccuracies and that the decision to charge was ill-advised and irrational. A further adjournment was then given.

In September, 2016, the matter was then recalled and the court was informed that Chase, along with her attorneys, were awaiting a High Court ruling on the charge.

At the end of October, 2017, the trial was finally expected to start but the prosecutor at the time was unable to locate the file. During a hearing then, the defendant, her attorneys, the prosecutor and a relative of the deceased were called into the magistrate’s chambers. The matter later commenced on January 8th, after a copy of the file was presented to the court.

Leitch died at the Georgetown Public Hospital shortly after he was hit near the Survival Supermarket at Vlissengen Road and Duncan Street. He sustained several injuries, including a fractured skull and a broken neck. It was reported that Chase had rushed him to the hospital following the incident, but he died while receiving treatment.

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