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Gruesome murder in season of good cheer

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What a way to prepare for Christmas! Some of us are still reeling from that astounding blow dealt on a woman and a human being. We are all saddened and deeply distressed by a crime of this magnitude on a defenseless woman who did not provoke anyone but was going about her normal business.

Stacy Wilson of Vermont boarded a minivan at the Leeward Bus Terminal to go to her home on that fateful Monday afternoon, of December 11, 2006. I believe that it never entered her mind that she would be hacked to death in this cruel and demeaning way.{{more}} Her left hand severed, her head sawn off, cutlass wounds over her body, she did not deserve to die in that manner. It was a painful death. Her attacker never had a moment of hesitation even though there were hundreds of onlookers. This must be the most brutal murder of the century and it sharply recalls the killing of a young girl from Mesopotamia some years ago. I extend my deepest sympathy to the parents, relatives and those who were close to Stacy in her short life time.

So atrocious is the crime that there has been a unanimous public outcry. Many are calling for public hanging without a trial. But like all those who commit a crime Stacey’s attacker must go through the normal court procedure. He must be represented by counsel and if he cannot afford his own counsel one must be appointed for him and paid for by the government to enable him to get a fair trial.

The police would have taken evidence from those who were present at the scene and were in a good position to have noted what occurred. The accused would have already gone before the Serious Offences court to be formally charged.

Since murder is an indictable crime the trial must take place before the High Court but before this is done there must be a preliminary enquiry at the Serious Offences Court on a date fixed by that Court. The purpose of this is to enquire into whether the accused should be committed to the High Court for trial or be discharged. The preliminary enquiry is usually conducted by the Chief Magistrate.

At the enquiry the magistrate has the duty to read over and explain the charge to the accused. He/she must explain to the accused that he will have an opportunity later in the trial to make a statement or give evidence or call witnesses on his own behalf. The magistrate must tell the accused that the purpose of the proceedings is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial in the High Court.

The witnesses are called and are examined by the prosecution. It is in the form of questions posed to the witnesses. The evidence or the testimony is written down by the magistrate in narrative form. The witnesses are also cross-examined by counsel representing the accused and re-examined by the prosecution. The statements taken at the proceedings are referred to as depositions. It is read over to the witness soon after he/she completes his/her testimony. The witness and the magistrate must sign the deposition.

If the court considers the evidence insufficient the accused would be discharged; if it is sufficient then the accused would be committed for trial in the High Court.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone!

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]

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