By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN appellate judge who once presided over the aborted trial of three men charged with the murder of a policeman has been asked to remove himself as a presiding judge in their appeal against conviction and life sentence for the crime.
Stephen “Die” Stubbs, Andrew “Yogi” Davis and Clinton “Russ” Evans, who were all sentenced to life in jail for the 1999 murder of Constable Jimmy Ambrose at the now-closed Club Rock Disco, returned yesterday to the Court of Appeal for what was expected to be a substantive hearing into the matter.
The men were previously convicted of the murder in 2001, when the death penalty was automatically imposed for the capital offence. The conviction and sentence were quashed on appeal in 2004 and their 2008 retrial ended in a mistrial.
In July 2013, they were convicted in a second retrial and a week before sentencing, Crown prosecutors gave notice of the intent to seek the death penalty.
But Justice Roy Jones ruled that the case did not meet the “worst of the worst” requirements for the death penalty and, even if it had, the prosecution had failed to follow sentencing guidelines by giving notice of their intention in the specified time.
In yesterday’s proceedings, when the matter was called before Justices Abdulai Conteh, Neville Adderley and Jon Isaacs, Mr Ducille, lawyer for Stubbs, suggested to the court that it’s present constituted panel could not preside over the matter.
When Justice Conteh asked the lawyer to explain, Murio Ducille said: “M’lord Isaacs has previously dealt with this matter. I thought he would have recused himself from hearing this matter.”
“Why would I/he?” Justices Conteh and Isaacs asked simultaneously.
“Certain matters of law arose in the retrial below which he will have to consider and having dealt with it in the court below, he ought to recuse himself,” Mr Ducille answered, adding that he was not questioning Justice Isaacs’ objectivity or fairness.
“You’re raising perception?” Justice Conteh asked.
“Yes, m’lord. He ought to recuse himself,” Mr Ducille said.
“That trial was aborted, right?” Justice Adderley interjected. Mr Ducille said the 2008 trial before Justice Isaacs was nearly at an end and he made rulings on issues of law that were also raised at his client’s retrial in 2013.
Justice Isaacs asked Mr Ducille if the appellate court, which overturned the conviction in 2004, remitted the matter to a different judge who had seen the case through from beginning to end.
Mr Ducille agreed that it was remitted to the same judge, then Senior Justice Anita Allen, but noted that “she recused herself”.
“She did not,” replied Justice Isaacs, adding that “by the time the matter came around, she had gone on to another place. Hence why the matter came before me”.
“What’s the position of the other counsel?” Justice Conteh asked of respective lawyers for Davis and Evans, Ian Cargill and Romona Farquharson-Seymour.
Mr Cargill agreed with Mr Ducille’s objection and asked the court to review the initial decision of the appellate court in 2014, as they had the power to do so in light of the circumstances.
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour said she would object on similar grounds.
Garvin Gaskin, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, disagreed with the objection and said that the appellate court’s decision on the same arguments being raised by Mr Ducille “is clearly applicable.”
Justice Conteh asked Mr Ducille if he knew “the manpower situation of the bench”.
Ducille said he understood their situation but added that “justice should not be compromised”.
Following a 10-minute break, the judges returned to the Claughton House courtroom where Justice Conteh said the court would reserve its decision on the issue to a date of which counsel would be informed.