Chief Magistrate rules for defence in Brown trial
Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages was not the only legal mind making news today. On Bishop Street Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord was making waves of his own when he ruled on an important matter in the extradition hearing of Andrew “Papa” Brown. In his sixth such decision since Brown’s case began on July eighteenth, this morning Lord denied a motion made by Solicitor General Elson Kaseke last Thursday which asked Lord to allow the Supreme Court to decide whether his refusal to admit a tape recording into evidence was proper. Lord maintained that he denied the request because the motion was “frivolous” and/or “vexatious”. In explaining his decision, the Chief Magistrate laid out several legal precedents indicating that extradition is a criminal proceeding and therefore rules of evidence in criminal cases apply. Lord ruled not to admit certain prosecutorial evidence, namely, a second affidavit of U.S. Drug Enforcement Special Agent Sheree Gordon and attached tape recordings, which allegedly contained the voice of the defendant discussing a drug deal with an accomplice. Kaseke objected, claiming the decision violated the rights of the prosecution, that is the Governments of Belize and the United States, and furthermore, violated the equality provisions of the Belize constitution. But during his one hour presentation this morning, Lord informed the court that as set by binding precedent by the House of Lords, during criminal proceedings, the prosecution is not entitled to a fair trail, only the person or persons charged. And after intensive research which delayed his decision for a day, Lord maintained that recent constitutional amendments have not removed the discretionary powers of the magistracy regarding the transferral of matters to the Supreme Court, reiterating that such a motion to defer to the high court is not mandatory for the lower court. But seconds after Lord’s judgement, Kaseke was on his feet informing the court that he would apply directly to the Supreme Court on this matter. That intention stated, it is now understood that the main extradition case against Andrew Brown is stayed until this specific matter is concluded. Following this morning’s judgement, lead defence attorney Dean Barrow told News Five he was not surprised by this morning’s verdict.
Dean Barrow, Lead Defence Attorney, Andrew Brown
?It couldn’t go any other way. The authorities are absolutely clear, there was just no room for within which the court could manoeuvre; it had to go that way.”
“Mr. Barrow, Mr. Kaseke has indicated that he will still go to the Supreme Court and ask that this matter be taken to the high court. How do you go about defending from there?”
“I can say again with absolute certainty that while the rules provide for him to approach the Supreme Court, he will be turned back. He will lose. On the substance of it, it is clear, you cannot quarrel with a ruling, be dissatisfied with a ruling and then say that you can attack that ruling by way of a case stated, urging that there are constitutional issues. I know, because I tried it and I know what all the courts told me and the authorities from abroad, so while he can mechanistically, as it were go to the Supreme Court, he will be told the same thing.”
“On Thursday, there will be arguments for bail. What will be your grounds that you will present to the Chief Magistrate?”
“The fact now that Mr. Kaseke is causing the hearing to be so long drawn out, it is now not the fault of the prisoners or their representatives, it is Mr. Kaseke who is causing these extraordinary delays. I think on that basis, the court will be sympathetic to the fact that these people should not continue to be locked up indefinitely while this thing drags on and on. If Mr. Kaseke will, every time he is dissatisfied go to the Supreme Court, and if he is dissatisfied with that go the Court of Appeal, we could be here for a year. So I think that having signalled that that?s exactly what he intends to do, I believe the court will have to be sympathetic to the bail application.”
The extradition case against Andrew “Papa” Brown continues on Thursday during which Lord will hear arguments regarding bail for the defendants. Brown and his brother Floyd have been indicted by a Florida grand jury for the alleged importation of cocaine in 1999. Even though Floyd Brown has appeared in the courtroom with his brother since July eighteenth, the case against him will not begin until Andrew’s case has been concluded.