The fact that five young men have been languishing in jail for the past four years without a file being presented cannot be justice, charged attorney Angela Mitchell-Gittens.
And despite an impassioned submission by her for the matter to be dismissed in the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court today, magistrate Kristie Cuffy-Sargeant denied the request.
The five young men are among a group of eight charged with the August 6, 2015, murder of primary school teacher Dwight Holder.
Rasheed Jabar Gittens, 20 and Akeem Adrian Gittens,19, both of Belleview Gap, Station Hill; Ayo Prince Bascombe, 24, of Headleys Land, Bank Hall; Adrian Antonio Watts, 41, of Windsor Road, Bank Hall; Brandon Damon Joseph, 22, of Beckwith Street, the City; Kemal Mario Straker, 20, of #15 Clapham Park, Nicholas Ricardo Clarke, 19, of 2nd Avenue Godding or Gooding? Road, Station Hill; and Rio Richian Jelani Benn, 23, of Upper Dukes Alley, Vine Street, The City, all in St Michael, have been charged with Holder’s murder.
Rasheed Gittens, Benn and Bascombe have all been granted bail.
When the men appeared in court today, prosecutor acting Assistant Superintendent Trevor Blackman said a voluntary bill of indictment was scheduled to go before Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson tomorrow at 11:30 a.m.
But an irate Mitchell-Gittens – who is representing Straker, Joseph and Rasheed Gittens – did not take kindly to the news, saying it was unacceptable that four years after her clients had been charged a file was yet to be presented.
Furthermore, she contended that the prosecution had repeatedly offered up the voluntary bill as an excuse.
“I would be comforted by those words except for the fact that I have heard them said many times before.
“August 6, 2015 Dwight Holder lost his life. We are now in June of 2019. Apart from putting charge sheets in the hands of eight young men, nothing else has been done in this matter. His family must be wondering what is the state of justice in this matter,” Mitchell-Gittens pointed out.
“And people want to know how people get bail for murder? This is how because we can’t charge people, send them to prison, forget about them and do nothing four years later.”
The prominent lawyer said the long delay was not fair to either the deceased man’s family or the accused.
“Your order on the last occasion was for the file to be brought here. You didn’t ask for a message, you asked for the file to be brought here. There is no file …no disclosure, but you charge eight young men with murder. Some of them are still in prison because we know how onerous High Court bail conditions are. They have spent four years in prison and not even the courtesy of an album, not even the most non-contentious statement has been served in this matter. That is the state of justice in Barbados,” Mitchell-Gittens said.
“There is no justice for anybody to be had here, not for Dwight Holder’s family and not for these still in prison. I am inviting you to dismiss this case for want of prosecution. After four years, enough is enough, whatever the charge is…There is no justice in this matter for the deceased or his family. There is no justice for these eight young men, several of them have been incarcerated for the last four years and can’t get back any part of their lives that they spend in prison.
“This is disrespectful behaviour, this cannot be the state of justice in the country. Where is the file, why have no documents been served?” she further questioned.
Mitchell-Gittens reminded the court this was the fourth occasion she had asked for the matter to be dismissed.
She maintained that while the charge was a serious one, it was unfair to expect accused persons to sit in jail until whenever the prosecution deemed it fit to present a file.
“I am inviting you to dismiss this matter, let the public see what happens in Barbados. Let us see what happens to eight young men, black people children in this country, put a charge sheet in their hands and four years later, nothing. But the charge is murder so we must lock them up forever and when they come out, they come out. Nobody don’t care because once the police charge you that is the end of that,” Mitchell-Gittens proclaimed.
“The time has come for you to dismiss it for want of prosecution and let the DPP, the police and whoever else do their jobs. When you charge people prepare the file, serve pre-trial disclosure in a timely manner.”
After listening to her seven-minute submission, the magistrate ruled in favour of the prosecution and adjourned the matter until July 2. [email protected]