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'Jury Should Have Heard Of Donna Vasyli's Previous Good Character'

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

AN attorney for a woman accused of killing her millionaire husband yesterday submitted that the absence of evidence of her client’s good character during trial may have negatively influenced a jury’s unanimous guilty verdict against her.

Clare Montgomery, QC, lead attorney for Donna Vasyli, 55, yesterday submitted to the Court of Appeal that her client was denied the benefit of having evidence of her good character presented prior to her conviction for the March 24 slaying of her podiatrist husband Phillip Vasyli, something Mrs Montgomery claimed was a “breach of duty” on the part of defence counsel.

Mrs Montgomery submitted that had counsel ensured that evidence of her client’s good character was led, it would have suggested that Vasyli likely did not have the propensity to murder her husband, and consequently might have resulted in a different verdict from the jury.

Mrs Montgomery referred to the testimonies of three key witnesses, namely Myles Pritchard, Nicolaza and Alejandro Quintana to validate her claims, submitting that within those testimonies were snippets of information to suggest background evidence of a positive nature on her client’s behalf leading up to the incident in question.

Mrs Montgomery submitted that those submissions – if they had been presented – coupled with her client having no prior convictions, would have possibly earned a different verdict from the jury.

Thus, Mrs Montgomery submitted that it is up to the Court of Appeal to now determine whether or not those facts would have had any bearing on the verdict.

However, after yesterday’s hearing, Court of Appeal President Dame Anita Allen adjourned the matter to July 18.

In October, a jury unanimously found Vasyli guilty of the stabbing death of her husband at their home in Old Fort Bay.

At trial, the jury saw Vasyli’s videotaped interview while she was in police custody. During that interrogation, a police officer suggested to the widow that she stabbed her husband for embarrassing her in front of houseguests with his drunken state. She strongly denied the accusation in the presence of her lawyers at the time, Elliot Lockhart, QC, and Judith Whitehead.

During that interview, Vasyli told police that her husband had been drinking and fell down the stairs – shattering glass from picture frames along the way – hours before his dead body was found.

She added that he was walking around the house looking “disgusting” with his pants hanging down even though she told him guests were coming. However, she said, she did not argue with her husband.

During the trial, the Crown also called Constable Jermaine Knowles to the witness stand who said he saw Vasyli in the main house after the murder. He claimed Vasyli told him “we had a fight last night.”

Vasyli was then sentenced to 20 years in prison by Acting Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs on November 10; however, one of her attorneys said at the time that her legal team intended to challenge the guilty verdict of a jury that the widow felt had “betrayed” her.

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