Eustace faces 5 hours of cross-examination in Day One of Petitions Case
Maia Eustace, daughter of the former Leader of the Opposition, took the stand on the first day of the trial looking into the elections petitions yesterday, and faced nearly five hours of cross examination.
Eustace, a lawyer, was a roving poll agent on the day of general elections in 2015, and she was equipped with a notebook to take down any “salient information,” during the vote, the count, and afterwards.
Lead Counsel for the respondents, Douglas Mendes engaged the witness in a methodical review of her notes with regard to the numerical recordings of the voting day.
Eustace admitted that there seemed to be accordance in the party’s polling agents count of the official votes cast for the two candidates, respondent Louis Straker and petitioner Benjamin Exeter, and the count of the presiding officer.
Mendes tried to bring Eustace’s attention to the Form 16 statements (which had written the information for votes cast for each candidate etc), and her notes with regard to these forms, to determine whether or not they were consistent.
However, Eustace did not accept that most of the Form 16 statements in evidence were those that she was given a chance to hurriedly glean information from on voting day. This was because the number in her notebook for a number of polling stations had seemingly been written over by another number in the evidenced statements, and therefore was no longer the same as when she recorded it on election night. She only accepted the statements for polling stations CLA1, CLE, CLF1 and CLH.
However, Mendes pointed out, “What is consistently happening, it appears Ms Eustace, if you will accept it I will move on very quickly, what appears consistently to be happening is that the votes cast, the valid votes cast plus the rejected ballots are adding up to the figure that is inserted on that line.”
Mendes also conducted an exercise comparing Eustace’s numbers written on December 10 to the tallied vote count of the party’s polling agents.
Where there was a tally sheet in evidence to compare with, for the most part, Eustace admitted that the numbers were consistent. Finally, Mendes also engaged in an exercise wherein he compared Eustace’s notes at the final count with that of the final result of the votes, but for some of the boxes Eustace did not record a final count.
“But that’s because you are saying they are invalid, but I’m talking about the actual physical count,” Mendes insisted for some time to Eustace, who remained stoic that the ‘ballots’ were invalid, and therefore not ballots.
The lead counsel insisted, for example, that because she had noted that 222 ballots were invalid for CLF, then she must have counted them. She replied that she counted 222 documents.
Further, she insisted that she could not say the number of votes cast for the New Democratic Party (NDP) or the Unity Labour Party (ULP) because, “I cannot confirm that because if the ballots were void, I cannot tell for whom the ballot was cast.”
Among other issues canvassed, notably, there was the issue of the breach of secrecy on the part of the witness herself, as put forward by Mendes.
Mendes noted about a particular ballot in evidence that the voter’s number was included.
“If you check this now you can find out the name of the person whose number that is, and therefore didn’t you, by publishing this, infringe the secrecy of the vote?” he asked Eustace.
The witness left the courtroom while Queen’s Counsel for the petitions Stanley ‘Stalky’ John made a submission that Justice Henry had already ruled on the admissibility of the ballot and the issue of secrecy.
Justice John asked where the issue of secrecy had been ruled on.
“The mere fact that the court did not strike it out, leaves that the court ruled against it being struck out on the basis of secrecy, because what the court has reserved for trial is whether it was cast or whether it was spoilt,” counsel John replied.
Mendes said that he did not intend to make an application to strike out the ballot, “What is important for my purposes is to point out to the witness that the witness put in the public domain, the way an identifiable person signified preference to one candidate to another.”
“There is a complaint in these proceedings for breach of secrecy and the point that I will make, ultimately is that the witnesses, three of them, have been very reckless as far as the secrecy is concerned, and basically you can’t be speaking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time,” he continued.
The question was allowed to Eustace who noted that the ballot was spoilt and never entered the box.
Her examination will continue into today, Tuesday.