By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE COURT of Appeal yesterday ordered a retrial for a man accused of a 2014 murder after an appeal was lodged by the Office of the Attorney General.
Michelet Auguste, appeared before Justice Vera Watkins in 2015, accused of the murder of Charles Pandy. Mr Pandy was in the area of his residence off Malcolm Road east, when he was shot several times. He was taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital where he later died of his injuries.
On February 1, 2015, Auguste pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and a trial began. According to the ruling, during the trial the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of an anonymous witness identified as only “Alpha”.
Alpha testified that on the night in question, while looking through a window of her home, she saw the individual who shot the deceased fleeing the area with a gun in his hand. Alpha identified that individual as “American,” someone she had known for a year previously and who she would see every day as the person would pass her house daily. Alpha provided the police with a description of the individual, attended an identification parade at which she identified the respondent and at the trial, she identified the respondent as “American.”
After the prosecution had closed its case, counsel for Mr Auguste made a no case to answer submission claiming that the prosecution’s evidence was of a tenuous nature.
On March 6, 2015, Justice Watkins found that the evidence was vague and inherently weak and ruled that a jury, properly directed, could not safely convict upon it. Consequently, Justice Watkins directed the jury to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty. The jury did as directed and, thereafter, the judge ordered the release of the respondent from prison.
On March 6, 2016, the AG’s Office filed an appeal on two grounds. Firstly, that the decision of the trial judge was erroneous in the point of law and that the justice erred when she found that an essential element of the Crown’s case was missing and secondly that the justice usurped the function of the jury when she withdrew the case from them on the basis that “there was a difficulty in regard to the issue of identification of the person responsible for the shooting.”
In a 13-page ruling, the Court of Appeal found that “there is a crucial distinction between a judge stopping a case where there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence and a judge stopping a case due to his evaluation as to the reliability of a prosecution witness. The former scenario is permissible but the latter is not.”
The ruling also said: “In the present case the trial judge descended too minutely into the evidence of witness Alpha and therefore ventured beyond matters of quality of the evidence. As such, the judge entered the impermissible realm that is the domain of the jury. In so doing, the learned judge usurped the function of the jury and she erred in finding that the Crown had failed to show the respondent was responsible for the death of Mr Pandy.”
The matter has now been turned over to the Supreme Court for retrial and a warrant of arrest has been issued for Auguste.