Guyanese-born High Court Judge, Madam Justice Paula Gilford on Monday discharged the jury in the Fitzroy St. Louis murder trial before its completion, in a move which defense counsel for the accused, Attorney-at-Law George Prime described as a very “unfortunate event” that he would “rather not take place again.”
Speaking exclusively with THE NEW TODAY following the judge’s decision on Monday morning, the attorney said, in addition to the murder trial, which commenced before Justice Gilford last week Tuesday, he had two (2) other matters down for sentencing before another high court judge, Justice Shiraf Aziz at High Court No. 5, which is located on the second floor of the same building on The Carenage in St. George’s.
It is understood that both criminal judges, Madam Justice Gilford, and Justice Aziz, had indicated to both Prime and Senior Crown Counsel, Howard Pinnock that they wanted to start the respective matters at 8: 30 a.m on Monday.
However, THE NEW TODAY understands that Pinnock, who was too distraught to speak on the latest development after becoming aware of it, had last week Friday made a request for the St. Louis murder trial to be stood down for an additional half hour, to allow for the completion of the matters slated for sentencing before Justice Aziz, but the female judge allegedly denied the request.
“This is an unfortunate event, an event that I would rather not take place again,” Attorney Prime declared.
“In the principles governing clashes of this kind, the judge felt that at least we (prosecutor and the defense counsel), could have sent somebody to hold papers (for us) which she is right – somebody ought to have gone to the court to hold papers on my behalf and on behalf of Mr. Pinnock, but I believe the issue had to do more with Mr. Pinnock making an application on Friday, saying to the judge that he really needed a few more minutes (before the trial resumes on Monday) to provide an opportunity to manoeuvre (between) both courts, because both judges anxiously wanted to finish the docket before the (new) year comes,” he added.
According to the defense attorney, as a consequence the matter would have to be traversed to the January 2018 assizes and will cause some serious repercussions for the administration of justice.
“My greatest regret today is that this matter would have to start over and it would cost the state. This really should not have happened at all…”, he said.
He went on to explain, “One, it would mean that the matter has to start over (and) the state would have to pay me two sets of money. I would have to be paid for this time and I would have to be paid again for the next hearing. In my humble view, all of this could have been avoided by some patience exercised, either on the part of Justice Aziz or Justice Gilford,” Attorney Prime said.
The former Magistrate, who is one of the few lawyers handling criminal matters on the island, also cited a need to improve on what he described as “a lack of coordination” between judges and lawyers in the country.
“I think we really lack in the justice system coordination of judges. I think we ought to be singing from the same hymn sheet – Bench and Bar,” he said.
“Indeed, we were looking forward to have this matter completed before this term ends,” Attorney Prime added, referring to the September Assizes, which is scheduled to close on December 19, for the Christmas holidays.
“This is a murder trial and we needed every available opportunity to expedite the case.
However, Prime said that the judge felt that “we disrespected the court so she decided to draw stumps as we say in local cricket terms”.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Pinnock had already called 3 of his six witnesses to give evidence against St. Louis, 53, from Grand Anse Valley, for causing the May 27, 2017 death of 33-year-old Marcus Alexander of the same village.
Alexander succumbed to injuries sustained as a result of a stab wound to the chest, with a knife that was allegedly delivered by St. Louis, following verbal and physical altercations, which started after the accused reportedly heard the now deceased saying degrading things to his wife.
The incident happened sometime after 11.00 p.m. in the village as the deceased was engaged in a physical altercation with the wife of the murder accused, who reportedly stepped in to defend his wife.
It is understood that prior to the fatal incident, the three along with others were hanging out at a popular shop in the village and engaged in drinking alcoholic beverages.