By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE lead prosecutor in a high profile retrial murder case believes the press is subject to the rules of any normal citizen in a democracy and should not breach the laws in the name of investigative journalism.
During an hour-long submission to a judge to support a request from the Attorney General that the media be restricted in its coverage of the case before the retrial commences in May, the prosecutor quoted from cases in other jurisdictions in an attempt to convince Justice Roy Jones that he should exercise his lawful power to restrain the media’s coverage of the case prior to the trial commencing.
However, Justice Jones said he required time to make a decision on the constitutional matter and would notify the respective legal parties as to when his decision would be made.
During a hearing on November 28, 2012, the prosecution raised concerns about recent reporting on a case in which Stephen “Die” Stubbs, Andrew “Yogi” Davis and Clint “Russ” Evans are accused of the murder of an off-duty policeman.
It is claimed that on March 13, 1999, the three men murdered Corporal Jimmy Ambrose.
Stubbs is defended by lawyers Murrio Ducille and Jerone Roberts while “Russ” Evans has retained Ramona Farquharson-Seymour. Ian Cargill represents “Yogi” Davis.
The prosecution claimed that the media had misreported some of the facts.
It was argued that if not dealt with, such mistakes could have a prejudicial affect on the jury.
The prosecution asked Justice Jones to order that the print and broadcast media be allowed to report only on the adjourned date for trial, and nothing relating to the history of the case or photographs of any of the defendants.
In yesterday’s proceedings, Nathan Smith held brief for Mr Ducille, Mrs Farquharson-Seymour and Mr Cargill while the lead prosecutor made her submissions to the court concerning the application in question.
The prosecutor began her submissions by stating that the application being brought by the Attorney General seeking to restrain the press from further publication of matters concerning the case in lead up to the trial scheduled for May.
Before continuing, she noted that the proceedings were not an attempt to prosecute the media for its publications during the week that the matter was scheduled to commence, but did not following pre-trial discussions.
Referring to the transcripts from the proceedings in November, the lead prosecutor highlighted parts where the court was asked to caution the media present in the courtroom regarding what could and could not be published.
Anything said in the absence of the jury, she said, was not to be reported.
Before submitting exhibits of The Punch, The Bahama Journal, The Nassau Guardian and The Tribune, the lead prosecutor noted that the question for Justice Jones to consider is whether or not the publications and future publications would have a prejudicial affect on potential jurors or persons coming to testify in the matter based on preconceived notions due to the media’s power and influence on the populace.
The Crown representative claimed the rehashing of the allegations, misrepresenting of the facts, use of irrelevant information and publishing photos on one defendant was not creating a fair case for either side, which she noted, also was a concern expressed by Mr Ducille in November.
While acknowledging that the Bahamas constitution allows for the freedom of the press and expression, she said that the media, like citizens, are also bound by laws.
The prosecutor referred to authorities on similar cases in other jurisdictions, including Jamaica.
While acknowledging the prosecutor’s submissions, Justice Jones noted that the details surrounding the history of the case and its length of time before the courts was already a matter of public knowledge.
The lead prosecutor maintained that the rehashing of the case and certain facts tainted the purpose of a retrial, which the counsel claimed meant a new trial in itself.
“Although it’s in the public domain, it is not necessary,” the prosecutor emphasised, adding that when the trial commenced, the press would be free to have extensive coverage.
“It is only right to report for the populace who cannot be present in the court to do so accurately and without prejudice,” the prosecutor concluded. Mr Smith said he agreed with her submissions.
“I need some time to do a ruling,” said Mr Justice Jones.
“I can’t give a date as yet. I’ll let you know when I’m ready,” he said before adjourning the proceedings.