Lewis Molson Ebanks, who pleaded not guilty more than two years ago, was discharged last week on a charge of forgery.
Trial was to have started on Tuesday, May 8, but Crown counsel Toyin Salako submitted a formal notice to Justice Malcolm Swift that the Crown was not continuing the case for the prosecution. The reason given was difficulty in locating witnesses.
The notice concluded, “The defendant is reminded that should the position change in relation to the location of witnesses, the Crown will be in a position to bring proceedings against him in relation to this allegation.”
Mr. Ebanks first appeared in Summary Court in February 2015, when it was alleged that between Feb. 1 and 28, 2012, while at Empire Development head office, he made a false document relating to a deposit for a property. The document was said to be a letter to a local bank.
The matter went to Grand Court, where on March 20, 2015, he entered his plea of not guilty. A trial by jury was set for July 7 that year.
However, court records show that days before the trial was to start, the Crown applied to vacate the date due to witness difficulties.
The trial was then set for Oct. 26, 2015, but that date had to be vacated because both the Crown counsel and defense attorney were in another trial.
The trial date was re-set for June 6, 2016, but at the end of May that year the date was again vacated – this time because “the court could not accommodate the multiple trials listed as backup trials.”
The court was advised around this time that Mr. Ebanks’s attorney was leaving Cayman to work in another jurisdiction. An adjournment was granted for the defendant to seek another counsel.
In October 2016, the court received confirmation that a new attorney had conduct of the defense case. In December, trial was set to commence on May 8, 2017. This was the fourth trial date.
In March, 2017, the second attorney advised the court that his firm was no longer in a position to represent the defendant.
A third defense attorney came on record in April, 2017, and confirmed trial readiness.
On Friday, May 5, at a case management conference, the Crown advised Justice Swift that a number of witnesses had left the jurisdiction and, since the defense required all of them, efforts were being made to locate them.
On Monday, May 8, Ms. Salako reported on which witnesses were available and which were not. One was off island until the end of May; one did not wish to give evidence; two had left the bank and either did not respond to an email or the email bounced back. Three witnesses were available.
Ms. Salako asked for more time in which to state the Crown’s final position. Defense attorney Lee Halliday-Davis objected on the basis that the trial date had been set for some time.
The Crown was given until 2 p.m. the next day to respond.
On Tuesday, May 9, the formal notice of discontinuance was submitted and Mr. Ebanks was discharged.