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Video Link Ruling Delayed By Court Of Appeal

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

THE Court of Appeal has delayed its decision on the constitutionality of the video-link evidence argument made by two brothers set to stand trial in the Supreme Court for murder.

Appellate court president Justice Anita Allen told the Crown and defence counsel that “if we are unable to provide a ruling before the third (June 3), the (anonymity) order will remain in place until we make a determination.”

Murrio Ducille and Michael Kemp, respective lawyers for Tony Smith, 26, and Leroy Smith, 27, argued that the order to shield the identities of civilian witnesses set to testify against the accused contradicted their clients’ right to a fair trial.

They further submitted that the witnesses would not be able to be properly cross-examined if they were not physically present in court.

Prosecutor Darnell Dorsett, however, said there was no evidence shown by counsel that their clients would not receive a fair trial. She further argued that there was no statement in the constitution that demanded that a witness be physically present to give evidence.

The Smiths, defence and crown counsel are scheduled to appear before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs concerning the Tristan Bartlett murder trial.

They had initially appeared before the Supreme Court on May 8 to stand trial in connection with the fatal shooting of Bartlett, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a green Honda when he was approached by five men, two of whom were armed with handguns.

The men opened fire on the vehicle resulting in the victim being shot twice in his head. A friend of the victim jumped into the vehicle and drove the man to hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

Before the trial could start, however, the Crown applied to Justice Isaacs to shield the identities of civilian witnesses set to testify against the two brothers.

In a typical criminal trial, the accused or accused persons know the names and other personal information about their accusers.

However, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, which came into effect in November 2011, allow prosecutors to apply for anonymity orders for certain offences if witnesses fear intimidation or harm.

The judge, however, dismissed the application and was then informed by the Crown that they intended to appeal.

The appellate court, last week, reversed the decision and granted the Crown’s applications pending the outcome of the argument on the constitutionality of video-linked evidence.

Yesterday, the judges noted that they intended to have a ruling before June 3 when the matter is to go to the Supreme Court.

Justices Christopher Blackman and Neville Adderley presided over proceedings along with the appellate court president.

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