By Nico Scavella
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN recently acquitted of murdering another man on Potter’s Cay Dock a day before his birthday three years ago is suing the government for unlawfully detaining him for some five days after he was found not guilty of the crime.
Denico Bowe is suing the government for the “unhygienic and inhumane” conditions he experienced by being detained for 120 hours after being acquitted of the 2015 shooting death of Strauss Edwards Jr on March 14.
According to Bowe’s sworn affidavit, he was forced to urinate in jars and was not provided with access to a toilet. He claimed he was also forced to defecate in a slop bucket, which was “simply dumped periodically”.
He said there were between five to seven men in a cell at any given time. And if the slop bucket were ever to get full, he would be forced to defecate in a plastic “bread bag”, that is, the narrow, long, plastic bag that holds a regular loaf of bread.
And if his family had not visited him, Mr Bowe claimed in his affidavit, he would not have had the plastic bag to defecate in during his time in custody. He also claimed he had to “use and experience” other inmates using their T-shirts and socks to clean themselves due to their being no toilet tissue.
“This created a totally unsanitary environment,” he alleged.
He also alleged the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services never provided an update on his release or status, but instead taunted him by saying he may be released “today, tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday, who knows when they ga let you go.”
Bowe also claimed he contracted scabies and was exposed to inmates with tuberculosis, making him sick on numerous occasions. He alleged he was forced to use his “bathing bucket” to drink water from when there were no other containers available.
Bowe is also suing the government for being unlawfully detained from March 14 to March 19 of this year, despite him being given “time served” concerning a charge of causing harm on the former date, and a release order executed on that day by the presiding judge.
As a result, Mr Bowe is seeking general damages, aggravated damages, interest pursuant to the Civil Procedure (Award of Interest) Act, costs, and other relief the court deems just.
The allegations are contained in a writ of summons and a sworn affidavit, filed by his attorneys Nicholas Mitchell and David Cash, the latter having represented him in his murder retrial over Edwards’ death.
Attorney General Carl Bethel is listed as the first defendant, while Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Patrick Wright is listed as the second defendant. Bowe is the plaintiff in the action.
According to the writ, Bowe was incarcerated for approximately two years and six months and housed in the I-block of the BDCS in a cell.
According to the writ, in March 2017, Bowe stood trial on the charges of murder and causing harm before Justice Bernard Turner in connection with Edwards’ murder.
He was sentenced to nine months in prison on the charge of causing harm on May 14, 2017, but because he had already spent two years in “pre-trial detention,” he was given “time served”.
A release order was executed by Justice Turner on March 14, 2017 in relation to the charge of causing harm, but was not signed by the registrar until March 19, 2018.
Nonetheless, Justice Turner’s decision to give him time served effectively ended any period of lawful detention concerning the charge of causing harm, according to the court documents.
Thus, at that stage, Bowe could not have been sentenced nor remanded. The jury did not reach the “mandatory or any acceptable verdict” on the murder charge and a retrial was consequently ordered.
Nonetheless, Bowe remained on remand for the murder charge, the writ said.
After the pronouncement of his sentence for causing harm, Bowe said he applied for bail concerning his murder charge on two separate occasions, once before Justice Turner and a second time before Justice Carolita Bethel, but was denied on both occasions.
On February 12, 2018, his retrial over Edwards’ murder commenced before Justice Bethel, which ultimately resulted in his acquittal by the jury on March 14, 2018, of the charge of murder.
Thus, according to his affidavit, as of or about March 14, 2018, Bowe had no matters that would permit his “continued detention” and “no lawful authority” for his “continued custody” as of his acquittal of murder. And according to the affidavit, once the verdict was read Bowe’s attorney indicated to the court in his presence that he had no matters pending or at all that would justify his “continued detention” at the BDCS.
And as his sentence for causing harm was served, and he was acquitted of murder, the only matter he had remaining before the court concerned a drug related charge for which he was granted bail in 2014.
However, he was still taken back to the BDCS and kept in custody, according to the affidavit.
Despite the certificate of acquittal from Justice Bethel’s chambers and the release order from Justice Turner’s chambers having been forwarded to the prison, Bowe was held in custody until March 19 of this year.
And during that time, his attorneys claim their client was held in a “grossly confined cell” in the “most deteriorated section” of the BDCS, in violation of his rights under Article 17 of the Constitution.
Messrs Mitchell and Cash further claim their client was subjected to 24-hours of confinement and not given his “obligatory” one hour of exercise pursuant to the Correctional Services Act 2014.
Bowe’s attorneys charge their client was “neither sentenced nor on remand and was being unlawfully detained.”
As a result, Bowe and his attorneys are charging that the “negligence of the second defendant or its agents in failing to take any reasonable, or any steps at all to reinstate the liberty of the plaintiff led to his unlawful detention.”
Messrs Mitchell and Cash also charge that the second defendant, through its “servants, agents or employees” failed to take “any or adequate steps to determine the status of the plaintiff relative to his incarceration upon his return” to the BDCS, and neither did they take any steps to notify the administrative department of the existence of the release order.
They also charged that Commissioner Wright and his subordinates failed to take any steps “to ascertain the status of the individuals” being transported back to the BDCS. The lawyers claim their client was “deprived of his liberty without lawful authority amounting to unlawful detention for approximately 120 hours.”
“In the premises, the detention of the plaintiff starting on or about 3.31pm on March 14, 2018, through March 19, 2018, at or about 11.30am was unlawful as there was no reasonable ground or lawful authority for the plaintiff’s continued detention during the material period,” the writ said.
“The plaintiff was subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions beyond the period of his lawful detention and in the premises is entitled to and claims aggravated damages along with general damages for unlawful detention.”
Bowe and his attorneys also claim that their client is a “practising Rastafarian” who informed the prison staff of his religion and its practices, and was still made to “consume food and engage in practices which violated his beliefs, or in the alternative prevented him from engaging in the rituals, practices and traditions of his faith thereby infringing on his absolute Constitutional right to freedom of religion.”