The United States Department of Justice has sent correspondence to the legal representative of former Government Minister Donville Inniss which cast doubt on the strength of bribery charges brought against him by authorities there.
In mandated disclosure correspondence sent by United States Attorney Richard Donoghue to Inniss’ lead attorney Anthony Ricco on June 24, Donoghue revealed that following an internal investigation of the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL), both former employees Alex Tasker and Ingrid Innes had “generally denied” paying bribes to Inniss.
Donoghue also revealed in his letter that the principal of the New York Dental Company through whose bank account ICBL was alleged to have routed approximately $36 000 in bribes, had stated that Inniss’ political rivals “were trying to frame him”. Donoghue did not specify who those rivals were.
But despite his revelations, the United States Attorney indicated that the American government was not conceding that the disclosure was material information to the case, in keeping with Brady V Maryland (1963). In that case it was held that the government’s withholding of evidence that was material to the determination of either guilt or punishment of a criminal defendant violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process. In his correspondence to Inniss’ lawyer, Donoghue had indicated that the denials of Innes and Tasker might be helpful to the defence.
Meanwhile Ricco has filed a declaration to United States District Court in New York opposing the government’s attempts to preclude evidence or argument that might be helpful to Inniss during his trial which is about three months away. The United States government has sought to preclude admission of evidence of personal information of the embattled former St James South MP, inclusive of family, education, good character and previous good deeds.
Ricco charged that the United States government was stripping Inniss of information upon which a jury could make a meaningful assessment of his role in the offence, and his relationship with other witnesses who shall be called by the government.
“This is yet another case wherein the government seeks to limit a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to present a defence through affirmative evidence about his background and history,” Ricco asserted.
The US government had argued that Inniss’ life history and work record should be excluded from the trial since it would present a risk of confusing a jury and that jurors might lose sight of the issues they were being asked to decide. Among the other suggestions made by the US government was that basically putting a human face to Inniss could lead to jurors having sympathetic feelings for the defendant and thus interfere with their duty to apply the law to facts.
“Should Donville Inniss decide to exercise his Sixth Amendment right to testify at his upcoming trial, the jurors will have the opportunity [to] hear his individual history, which includes both his triumphs and failures. The jurors will also have an opportunity to hear from Donville Inniss, who will explain his interaction, if any, with the individuals whom the government will be calling as their witnesses,” Ricco wrote.
He cited United States V Blackwell to show that the US government’s attempt to preclude testimony of Inniss’ good conduct was contrary to established case law. He also argued that Inniss was a defendant who had the considerable forces of the US government arrayed against him and had little more than his good name to defend himself and “should not [be] prevented
from presenting such minimal probative evidence.
“There is nothing about the individual life history of Donville Inniss, which can possibly serve to confuse jurors, or cause jurors to lose sight of their function. To the contrary, listening to witnesses and assessing their creditability is precisely what jurors are sworn to do. The government’s view that somehow jurors will be distracted from their function, is a conclusion which has no basis in fact,” Ricco argued in his declaration.
Ricco concluded by asking the court to deny the government’s motion to preclude the introduction of evidence related to Inniss’ service to the community, employment history, among other personal information.
Last month, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations visited Barbados seeking to collect evidence in the case but reportedly left empty-handed.
Barbados TODAY tonight made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the principal of New York Dental Company, as well as attorney-at-law Ronald DeWaard who is representing Innes in the matter.