By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LAWYER, cited for contempt while engaged in a human trafficking case before the Supreme Court, walked free of any punishment yesterday when granted leave to withdraw as counsel in a murder case before another court.
In fact, when Jiaram Mangra appeared before Justice Indra Charles at 2:30pm, the judge did not mention anything about possible contempt or warrant of arrest that was brought to Mr Mangra’s attention earlier in the day.
Shortly before 11am, Mr Mangra was in a human trafficking case before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs when it was brought to his attention by a colleague that he was being cited for contempt and a warrant of arrest had been issued for him. The Tribune understands that policemen were ordered to arrest him the moment he stepped out of the courtroom.
When Mr Mangra brought this to Senior Justice Isaacs’ attention and explained the details of what he believed had brought this on, he ordered a stay on the matter until the conclusion of chamber discussions with the lawyer and the case’s prosecutors.
And to assure Mr Mangra of the legitimacy of the stay, he added that “if anyone should take the opportunity to place handcuffs on you, they will be answering to me”.
The lawyer spoke with the media outside of court and said “the press knows I am currently involved in this (human trafficking) trial as senior counsel in this matter”.
“I’m currently on my feet cross-examining one of the important prosecution witnesses in this trial and I was scheduled to appear in a murder trial before another court. I’ve explained from the outset, once I became involved in this matter, what my circumstances were.”
“The other court was not ready to proceed in my matter when I joined this (human trafficking) case and they were not ready to proceed on the adjourned date because of another trial going on in that court. When I appeared before that court (Tuesday) to advise them that I was currently cross-examining a witness in this trial, the position of the court and the Crown was that that case would proceed regardless. In the circumstances, I made an application to have myself removed from that (murder) case as counsel since I was being pressured and literally coerced to participate in that trial which would put me in a very untenable position.”
Mr Mangra said he requested leave to withdraw and wrote to the Registrar returning the brief based on his inability to continue with that trial.
“I’ve now just been advised that the other court has issued a contempt order against me and directed that I be arrested and brought to the court. I’ve just asked the judge if he will put a stay on that order so I could step out of court without being arrested for doing what I am currently doing, defending my client here,” he said.
The lawyer said he attended all of the case management proceedings in the other case and was “ready and prepared to proceed in the other court”.
“They were not ready for one reason or the other. As a private practitioner, I cannot sit idly by and twiddle my thumbs when I have to earn a living. And the court obviously was reluctant to accommodate me. But when the Crown is not ready, they get all the accommodation that they want. But the co-defendant and his counsel cannot be accommodated in the interest of justice?”
“And that, ladies and gentlemen of the press, is the problem!” he concluded.
That afternoon, Mr Mangra appeared before Justice Charles along with members of the Criminal Bar Committee who were there to support him.
However, Justice Charles dismissed the jury and proceeded to ask Mr Mangra if he was prepared to proceed at all with the case. Mr Mangra attempted to explain the extenuating circumstance, however, the judge said, “Mr Mangra let’s not waste time.”
“Are you proceeding or not at all, yes or no?” the judge asked.
“I asked the court for leave to withdraw from this matter,” the court replied.
The judge granted his application and asked that he return his documents concerning the brief to the court.