Gibson attorney’s recusal request refused


Tribune Court Reporter


JUSTICE Cheryl Grant-Thompson has denied Adrian Gibson’s attorney’s recusal request, resulting in the MP’s trial moving forward in her court next May.

Murrio Ducille, KC, submitted a recusal application towards Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson arguing of public perception of political bias as the case proceeded on Tuesday.

Mr Ducille raised this issue in reference to the justice’s late husband, former MP Peter Bethell, being a member of the Progressive Liberal Party, saying it would impede her impartiality to Gibson as a sitting member of the Free National Movement.

The Long Island MP faces numerous accusations of malfeasance linked to his time as executive chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation during the Minnis administration. Gibson is alleged to have personally accrued over $1.25m through a series of cheques and wire transfers in connection with contracts awarded to Elite Maintenance and Baha Maintenance and Restoration by WSC.

 It is further alleged that he gained the money through bribery and then laundered it through the purchase of properties and vehicles, including those used in Gibson’s company in Long Island.

 Gibson with his alleged co-conspirators — Elwood Donaldson Jr, WSC’s former general manager; Gibson’s cousin, Rashae Gibson; the MP’s former campaign manager Joan Knowles; Peaches Farquharson and Jerome Missick — all pleaded not guilty to the 98 charges in the matter last Friday, all ranging from conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, fraud, receiving and money laundering.

 In the MP’s latest court appearance, Gibson alongside his co-accused were all placed in the jury box. This comes after the MP’s counsel previously raised issues with his client’s placement in the prisoners’ dock, claiming that Gibson was being prejudiced.

 With reference to this point Justice Grant-Thompson stated that the prisoners’ dock is where all defendants usually sit and that the MP’s placement there was in standing with court protocol; as such he will return there during trial.

 While the justice said that in future court appearances the defendants would be separated by sex for purely logistical reasons, no other alterations to the defendants’ seating arrangements will be made.

 In addressing Mr Ducille’s recusal application, the justice noted that he had made the application on his feet and only submitted the formal letter of recusal earlier that day. This is despite the fact he was asked to submit these documents on Tuesday and had previously stated that he would not be relying on them.

 The justice reiterated that in Mr Ducille’s application he asked for the case to be transferred to another court not because she was “unfit” to hear the matter, but because of perceived impartiality due to her late husband.

 She further restated prosecutor Eucal Bonamy’s, chief counsel for the director of public prosecutions, earlier assertion that few judges in a small country would be allowed to hear cases if such grounds for recusal were submitted and accepted. Mr Bonamy also pointed out that it is the jury in such matters that will make ultimate judgement, not the justice.

 Speaking directly on the point of her late husband, Justice Grant-Thompson stated that Bethell has been deceased for over 20 years in which time she has remarried. She also pointed out at the time of his death, Gibson was approximately 18 years old and had had no association with the late MP.

 Furthermore, the justice dismissed the idea that her opinion in the matter is in any way governed by her late husband. She went on to critique the idea that a female is to be “governed” by the dominant male in her life, living or deceased, rebutting that women in this country can make their own independent decisions. As such, despite Mr Ducille’s claims to the contrary, the justice said that she has no political bias in this matter and that the average Bahamian would perceive the matter likewise.

 “Therefore, the man or woman on the South Beach jitney – the modern-day version of the English ‘Clapham omnibus’ would in my view find that there is no perceived bias in this case. That this judge would and could dispense justice in this matter without any appearance of bias since she has not personally been a Cabinet member, or card-carrying member of any political party within The Bahamas,” Justice Grant-Thompson said in court.

 While the justice accepted that personal connections can be used as a ground for recusal in judicial matters such motions must be carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis and such applications should not be made frivolously. She dismissed Mr Ducille’s written submission that her court may be biased due to being appointed by the current administration. She argued that justices are appointed to the judiciary by the Governor General and that attributing the appointment of justices at any time to a political party is a “disgraceful” tactic.

 The justice ended her arguments by stating that the argument that she should transfer the case due to bias has no merit and that the average Bahamian would not see any impartiality over her late husband.

 Justice Grant-Thompson thereby refused the request for recusal, and additionally dismissed Mr Ducille’s submission for a gag order in this case as being premature

 The defence will return to court on November 7 at 1pm for case management.

 The trial in this matter is set for May 1 – 31, 2023.

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