By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE of two men accused of being responsible for a murder at the Palm Cay community must wait until next year before he learns if the Court of Appeal will reverse a Supreme Court judge’s decision to deny him bail ahead of trial.
Dwayne Heastie, 39, returned to the Claughton House courtroom yesterday for a decision on a bail-refusal appeal that was argued by his lawyer Krysta Mason-Smith the previous day.
The operations manager of a construction company is accused of the murder of a construction worker.
However, the court was not prepared to give a rushed decision on the matter.
“This case is of considerable public interest and we wish to deliver a decision after proper consideration,” Justice Anita Allen, Court of Appeal president, said.
“We were unable to do that today and so we will continue to reserve our decision.”
Last month, Justice Gregory Hilton refused Heastie’s bail application due to the seriousness of the offence, there being no unreasonable delays in the case that is likely to be heard in 2016, the incentive for the applicant to abscond and that the “existing need for public order and public safety is paramount.”
On September 21, Heastie, and his 36-year-old brother Samuel Heastie, were charged with murder, possession of an unlicensed 12-gauge shotgun and possession of six shells for the weapon.
It is alleged that the pair, concerned together, intentionally caused the death of Jean Richmond who was shot at Palm Cay.
They will not be allowed to enter a plea to the charges until they are formally arraigned in the Supreme Court. They are currently in custody of the state.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ms Mason-Smith argued that Justice Hilton “erred when he considered the current state of murder and public order as a reason for denying bail”.
“Didn’t he say more than that though?” Justice Allen asked, reading over the final paragraph of Justice Hilton’s ruling.
Ms Mason-Smith said that regardless, “each case must be determined on its own facts”.
She said that Heastie has substantial ties to the jurisdiction being Bahamian, married with three children who depend on him and the income he brings from his construction company that also employs 250 persons.
She told the court that since his remand, Heastie’s health has deteriorated and that his livelihood is in jeopardy due to his continued incarceration.
Ms Mason-Smith then said that Justice Hilton had not sufficiently considered the health concerns.
Justice Neville Adderley interjected, asking: “Didn’t he say he didn’t have enough evidence?”
The lawyer replied that the same judge gave the Crown an opportunity to produce the “cogent evidence” it allegedly has against her client for the court’s viewing despite the voluntary bill of indictment (VBI) not being served against him.
Speaking on that issue, Ms Mason-Smith said her client maintains that “he did not shoot anyone, planned to shoot anyone nor did he instruct anyone to shoot anyone”.
“The whole situation has Dwayne Heastie in shock,” the lawyer added.
Ms Mason-Smith also asked the appellate judges to bear in mind that in addition to murder trials already being set for 2018, “there was nothing before the court to suggest that he was a flight risk save and except for the seriousness of the offence”.
“What date is set for the VBI?” Justice Jon Isaacs asked.
Heastie’s lawyer said January 7, 2016.
Crown respondent Uel Johnson asked the appellate court to affirm the decision of Justice Hilton to deny bail to Heastie as “there’s no error in the decision”.
He said given the current state of affairs in the country concerning violent crimes, “the Crown believes that one of the more paramount issues is public safety and public order”.
“What does that mean?” Justice Isaacs probed.
“It begins with the mind. If one were to consider the act of murder, it would dawn on a member of the public’s mind that their security is at risk and Article 15 of the Constitution protects the right to security,” Mr Johnson said.
Justice Isaacs said that article of the Constitution was not a factor in bail applications given that The Bail Act exists.
“It seems the judge was more concerned about the record rate of murders. But there has to be some evidence to suggest the applicant will breach the public order,” Justice Isaacs added.
“This application was opposed by the respondent in the court below?” Justice Allen asked.
“Yes,” Johnson said.
After a short adjournment of the proceedings for the Crown respondent to produce its affidavit and supporting documents used to oppose bail in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the appellate panel adjourned the hearing to the following morning to give a decision.
That decision has been further adjourned to January 8, 2016, a day after Heastie is scheduled to return to Magistrate’s Court for his VBI presentation.
The VBI contains the Crown’s case against Heastie and would facilitate the transfer of the case from the Magistrate’s Court to the Supreme Court.
Heastie also will be advised that he will be unable to offer an alibi at trial if he did not enter one at the VBI presentation or within 21 days to the Office of the Attorney General.