By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
COURT of Appeal judges ruled on Friday that a contractor's continued detention ahead of his murder trial is in the best interest of protecting public safety and the contractor's own life from vigilantism.
The appellate court had upheld a Supreme Court judge's decision a day earlier to refuse bail for Dwayne Heastie, 39, moments after prosecutors fast-tracked the case of the accused and his brother, Samuel Heastie, 36, to Supreme Court for the September 18, 2015 fatal shooting of Jean Richmond.
The court said it would provide its written reasons in writing the following day, which was published on the court's website on Friday afternoon.
"The learned judge cannot be faulted for considering the need to protect the safety of the public and public order as he did so in accordance with the Bail Act," Justice Anita Allen said.
"Further, the Act states that the need to protect the safety of the public or public is to be treated as a primary consideration. The role of appellate courts in bail applications is to determine whether the learned trial judge exercised his discretion reasonably. On a consideration of all of the circumstances of the case and the entirety of the learned judge’s decision, the decision to deny bail was reasonable in all the circumstances," the court ruled
Justive Neville Adderley agreed with the appellate president's position for rejecting Heastie's appeal for bail. Justice Jon Isaacs also supported the refusal of bail but for a different reason, explained in the written judgement.
"The learned judge ought to have had regard to Part A(b) of the Bail Amendment Act, to wit, whether the defendant should be kept in custody for his own protection, and concluded that in the present climate of apparent vigilantism in the country, the appellant should remain in custody for his own protection.
"When courts are considering the grant of bail for persons charged with murder, judicial notice may be taken of the number of persons who have been charged with murder and released on bail who have themselves become victims of homicide. The appellant is alleged to have killed a family man of Haitian origin in an unprovoked attack where the man was seeking payment for work he had performed for the appellant.
"The events are of recent vintage and the emotions are quite raw. These circumstances make for a volatility which may only be defused by the continued detention of the appellant," Justice Isaacs added.
The Crown alleges that Heastie coaxed his brother, Samuel, to shoot Richmond. Both men also face firearm possession charges in relation to the alleged murder weapon, an unlicenced shotgun.
The Heasties will be arraigned before Supreme Court Justice Bernard Turner on January 22, when they will be allowed to enter a plea to the charges.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hilton rejected a bail application for Dwayne Heastie in November. His lawyer, Krysta Mason-Smith, asked the court to consider Heastie's health as he had been admitted to Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre for treatment for depression.
In his ruling, Justice Hilton said, "While there is a concern, in my view, there is not sufficient evidence of a medical nature to cause the court to be moved to grant bail to the applicant on this basis alone. In the present state of circumstances in The Bahamas, there is a record rate of the offence of murder.
"There is a breakdown in public order and a consequential depreciation in public safety. In weighing the competing considerations of the good character of the applicant and the presumption of innocence with the need to protect public order and public safety, the court is of the view that in the circumstances presently existing, the need for public order and public safety is paramount."