Grand Court opening adds 47 defendants

Total more than double previous sessions

The new Grand Court criminal
session opened on 7 July with 38 cases before the court for the first time,
with a total of 47 defendants. The number of cases — indictments — and the
number of defendants are not the same because some charges are against more
than one person. For example, four teenagers are charged in one robbery.

The 47 defendants represent more than
double the number of individuals appearing at new Grand Court sessions over the
past year. 

The three Summary Court magistrates
hold preliminary inquiries to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to
put the accused on trial in the Grand Court; if there is, the accused is sent,
or committed, to appear before that higher court at its next session.

New sessions are held every three
months. The following numbers are taken from informal records kept by the Caymanian

In July 2009, 22 defendants
appeared for new cases.

In October 2009, 16 defendants
appeared for new cases.

In January 2010, there were again
22 defendants listed.

In April 2010, the number was 11.

Neither Justice Charles Quin, who
presided at the 7 July session, nor any attorney commented on the length of the
list for the day.

However, when contacted later,
Solicitor General Cheryll Richards said that the magistrates, Crown counsel and
defence attorneys had made extra efforts between 28 June and 6 July to hold the
required preliminary inquiries for matters that could be dealt with only in the
Grand Court. She added that one court — that of Chief Magistrate Margaret
Ramsay-Hale — sat until 7pm the night before the Grand Court opening so that a
particular case could be committed.

Summary Court lists for the five
business days prior to the Grand Court opening show that 14 preliminary
inquiries involving 17 defendants were held in that period. Magistrate Grace
Donalds alone did five in one day.

Preliminary inquiries

The preliminary inquiries can be in
shortened format when the accused have legal representation: the defence
attorneys can agree to evidence submitted. If the accused is not represented,
the magistrate has to go through all of the evidence with the accused: this is
referred to as “long form”.

On Tuesday, the day before the
Grand Court opening, the chief magistrate committed the four teenagers charged
with the daytime robbery of Domino’s Pizza in Savannah on 3 June. She thanked
Crown Counsel Jenesha Simpson for moving swiftly to get the necessary
information prepared so that the matter could proceed. 

Also on Tuesday, she committed
Justin Devon Manderson, 18, who is charged with possession of an unlicensed
firearm and attempting to murder Andy Barnes on 24 June in the vicinity of
Kelly’s Bar, West Bay. Defence Attorney Lloyd Samson had applied for bail, but
was refused. The magistrate said he had the right to appeal to Grand Court. She
then asked why the preliminary inquiry could not go ahead. Ms Simpson explained
that the necessary papers had not yet been typed up. Mr. Samson said he was
happy to accept photocopies of handwritten documents and the inquiry proceeded
on that basis.

Trial dates requested

On Wednesday in Grand Court,
although only one defendant formally entered his plea, attorneys requested
trial dates through April 2011. (Many of the defendants who appeared at
previous Grand Court openings have had their matters dealt with or have trials
set for later this year.)

A plea of not guilty was entered by
Justin Ramoon, who is charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm and the
attempted murder of Sven Connor in Fairlawn Road on 21 February. Justice Quin
scheduled his trial to start on 4 October.

The juvenile charged with the
murder of Marcos Duran in West Bay on 11 March has had his trial set to start
on 22 November.

Attorneys for the four teens
charged with the robbery asked that their case be mentioned again on Friday, 6