By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN did not remember he had a six-year-old pending arson case before the Supreme Court until his recent arrest during a roadblock, a judge heard yesterday.
Devaughn Alexander Miller, 33, appeared before Justice Vera Watkins concerning a warrant of arrest issued for him four years ago following his failure to appear in court to receive a trial date as ordered by then Senior Justice Jon Isaacs.
Miller is accused of setting fire to an apartment building on East Street in 2010 that also housed a bar called the Fountain of Youth.
He was not formally arraigned in the Supreme Court until March 2, 2012 when he pleaded not guilty to the charge, which could see him spend 20 years at the Department of Correctional Services if convicted.
“What direction did the judge give you following the arraignment?” Justice Watkins asked the accused. Miller said he could not remember.
“So the charge (arson) was read to you, you pleaded not guilty. What date did he give you to come to court?” the judge asked. Miller again said he could not remember.
The 33-year-old did say that the owner of the Fountain of Youth “told my old man he just wanted the place fixed.”
“Fountain of Youth? What is that?” the judge asked.
Miller said it was a bar/restaurant with an apartment unit above the establishment.
“He said I light the fire upstairs,” Miller said, denying that he did so.
Justice Watkins inquired from Miller about the circumstances of his arrest.
Miller said he was on a truck headed to work on March 31 that was caught up in a roadblock organised by police who then ran his name through their system and discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
After eliciting these details from the accused, Justice Watkins informed Miller of what led to his present arrest.
“(Senior) Justice (Jon) Isaacs instructed you to come to my court on March 23, 2012. However, on that day, this court was not sitting because there was a training session for staff and the court was closed. The court left a notice on the front door on the outside in bold print. If you had come up to the court, you’d have seen it with your name on it asking you to return to court on Monday, March 26, 2012,” the judge said.
Miller failed to appear on that date and again four days later when the warrant was issued for his arrest.
“March 30, 2012 to April 4, 2016 - that’s four years, you agree?” the judge asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” the accused said.
“Why should this court release you and ask you to come back for trial?” the judge asked.
“My old lady did fall sick and I was going through some things,” Miller said, asking the court for a second chance that he would not waste.
“That’s not good enough. You’re telling me to trust you,” the judge said.
“I have a little boy to take care of and I really wish you’d give me another chance,” Miller said.
“I’m looking through the history of this matter and there were seven occasions where this matter was adjourned because you could not be found for arraignment,” the judge said.
She asked him if he had a lawyer. Miller said he was in the process of retaining a lawyer and did not need the court’s assistance.
Miller’s father, Alexander Miller, explained to the judge - when allowed to speak - that his son had appeared on the initial date and that they were instructed to appear in court at Victoria Gardens where the matter was called there and his son was later released by the Central Detective Unit.
The accused’s father said he did not realise the case was still continuing as he had not been able to personally appear with his son at the time and that his son neglected to say that his case was pending.
“That doesn’t help me at all,” the judge said, noting that the accused’s father could not attest to the facts because he was not present.
Justice Watkins told the accused she saw no reason for the court to release him because “he didn’t come back to court after (Senior) Justice Isaacs instructed him to.”
“You’ve been gone for four years and if I do release you may not appear for another four years unless we’re lucky enough to find another roadblock,” the judge told the accused.
Miller’s bail was revoked and a fixture hearing was set for April 19 when he will receive a date for trial.
Laneil Williams appeared for the Crown.