The Court of Appeal today reserved judgment in what was described by defence attorney Larry Smith as a landmark case.
Pedro Deroy Ellis, of Parris Gap, Westbury Road, St Michael, through his attorneys had asked the three-member judicial panel to overturn a High Court decision which denied him bail after he was arrested and charged with the May 5, 2013 murder of Antonio Charleston Omar Harewood.
The two men were allegedly involved in a dispute at 3rd Avenue Parris Gap around 5:50 p.m. that Sunday afternoon, which resulted in the 24-year-old Harewood being stabbed in the neck. Harewood later died and Ellis, who was 34 years old at the time, was charged with the capital offence.
On December 14, 2016, Smith, along with one of the two other defence attorneys, Shanna Goddard, had made an application for bail on their client’s behalf in the No.2 Supreme Court before Madam Justice Michelle Weekes.
However, this was denied following objections by Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas.
Today, Smith first had to convince the court that it had the jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
He then argued that Justice Weekes “fell into error” in her decision to deny bail since there was “no exercise” carried out by Weekes to determine whether the defendant, if released, would fail to surrender to custody, commit an offence or interfere with witnesses.
“She simply said, ‘I accept the submissions of the prosecution,’” Smith pointed out.
He further charged that the judge “took into consideration facts and circumstances not reasonably before her” in refusing bail.
“She fell into error and this court is perfectly placed to correct those errors because the Supreme Court Judicature Act gives the court the power to exercise the same functions of a High Court judge in its appellate jurisdiction,” Smith said in his lengthy submission.
The attorney also took issue with the fact that the judge gave no reasons for her decision.
However, the Crown disagreed with Smith’s submissions, telling Justices of Appeal Kaye Goodridge, Andrew Burgess and Acting Appeal Court Judge Margaret Reifer that Weekes had “arrived at the right decision” in accordance with the Laws and Constitution of Barbados.
The Crown Counsel said while his side did not file an affidavit in the matter like Smith did “we don’t see that in any way diminishing the foundation of the decision of the judge”.
Thomas also pointed to the fact that Ellis had a previous conviction for manslaughter. He argued that this formed part of the Crown’s objections, contrary to Smith’s contention that there was no evidence against his client.
“A ten year sentence was imposed in 2004 and then in 2013 the appellant [Ellis] finds himself charged with another offence of a very similar nature.
“So in my respectful view the grounds that were advanced in the bail proceedings were appropriate and justify the decision that was made in the circumstances,” Thomas contended.
The appeal judges then adjourned the matter without a date being set for a decision.