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Jul 17, 2017

New Trial for Accused in Death of B.D.F. Soldier

The Caribbean Court of Justice ordered this morning that three men, who were acquitted of the murder of B.D.F. soldier James Noralez, are to be retried for the same crime. Orel Leslie Junior, Tyrone Meighan and Brandon Baptist are tonight back behind bars at the Central Prison in Hattieville. The trio was freed of the charge in October 2015, but the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed before the Court of Appeal and the CCJ this morning upheld the decision for a retrial. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A trio of men, previously acquitted of murder in the Supreme Court of Justice Troadio Gonzalez in October 2015, is facing a retrial.  Orel Leslie Jr., Tyrone Meighan and Brandon Baptist are all accused of killing former BDF soldier James Noralez in 2012.  They were initially remanded for a period of three years, before the matter was heard in the high court.  After poring over evidence provided by the prosecution, the judge concluded that the facts presented in the case were circumstantial, since the information provided came from a suspect who is alleged to have been an accomplice.  The men were subsequently released and briefly enjoyed their freedom.  That was until they were picked up a second time and remanded into custody, the Director of Public Prosecutions having brought back the charge against them.  On March twenty-first, the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial.  That decision was challenged at the CCJ this morning but was unsuccessful.

 

Cheryl-Lynn Vidal

Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecutions

“The applications for special leave were dismissed and the order of the court below, the Court of Appeal has been confirmed and so all three accused will be retried.”

 

It’s a desired outcome for lawyers attempting to prove the trio’s guilt, as it allows for another opportunity to convict them for the crime they allegedly committed.  On the night of November twenty-third, 2012, James Noralez was fatally shot inside a vehicle on Fabers Road, his body then dumped out onto the street.  It is strongly believed that the men presently in detention are responsible for his murder.

 

Cheryl-Lynn Vidal

“We maintained at the trial that there was sufficient evidence to call the accused to answer to the charges.  The judge disagreed with us and where there’s that kind of disagreement, if we feel strongly, the law allows us to take it before a higher court and we did so.  We succeeded at the higher court.  We thought that was the end of that and that they would simply have been retried, but there were these applications because of course the defense is of a different view.  But the court agreed with our position that there was in fact sufficient evidence to call upon them to answer to the charge.  And so the matter will go back to the Supreme Court, before a different judge obviously.”

 

For attorneys Anthony Sylvester and Bryan Neal whose first case before the Caribbean Court of Justice was fruitless, the matter was about more than just a no case submission.

 

Anthony Sylvester

Anthony Sylvester, Attorney for Accused Murderers

“This is a very important application.  We weren’t successful but the bringing of the application was nonetheless of great significance to all persons who are charged with very serious crimes because, as you will recall, since 2011 there has been an amendment to two of our legislations which now makes it mandatory where a person is charged with murder, for that person to actually be tried by a judge alone.  And as my learned friend was explaining to the Honorable Justice of the Caribbean Court of Justice in court that there were, in our view, no guidance that was given in respect to how a trial judge is to approach.”

 

It does indeed form the basis of a legal question put forward by co-counsel Bryan Neal.  He expanded on that position with the media following the matter this morning.

 

Bryan Neal

Bryan Neal, Attorney for Accused Murderers

“We no longer have trials by jury for serious offenses.  Now yes, the application for leave has been refused by the Caribbean Court of Justice, but in making a ruling or a written judgment they can make better dictum statements about the principles that we have raised.  And one of the principles we raised is the fact that now that a trial judge is sitting alone does he have to give reasons for the decisions that he makes.  Juries don’t give reasons.  You’ve been in court Daniel, you’ve seen them get up, what say you the verdict, guilty or not guilty?  What is the proper role of a judge now that parliament has stopped jury trials for murder and attempted murder?”

 

Questions aside, the fate of the three men once again lies with a Supreme Court judge whom, it is presumed, will once again preside over a bench trial.  Of note is that the trio is on remand for a second time for the same crime.

 

Cheryl-Lynn Vidal

“As soon as we obtain the official order of the CCJ we will take steps to have the matter listed for trial and we will indicate to the Chief Justice through the registrar what the comments of the CCJ was in relation to the matter being tried as soon as is practicable.  Beyond that, the D.P.P.’s office can do nothing but prepare itself for trial and wait for the date set by the court.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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