An attorney representing a woman who was told to “shut up” during her testimony by the judge presiding over her case claims the judge’s “hostile” and “inappropriate” comments prejudiced the jury.
Judith Douglas, 54, was convicted in 2019 of cheating dive instructor Nathaniel Robb out of $1.9 million in an immigration scam over a five-year period while purporting to help him get Caymanian status.
Douglas, represented by Jonathon Hughes, is appealing her conviction and 10-year sentence before the Court of Appeal.
“The conduct of the trial judge throughout the evidence of the applicant amounted to a material irregularity in the conduct of the proceedings,” Hughes told the court at the Friday, 11 Sept. hearing.
Hughes referred the appeals court judges to the Grand Court trial transcript, which he claimed was proof of Justice Carlisle Greaves’ undue hostility.
“There are several instances where the judge was unduly hostile towards Ms. Douglas in the presence of, and without, the jury,” said Hughes. “The cumulative effect of this was such that it prejudiced the jury, and did not give the appellant a fair trial.
“One such example is when Ms. Douglas was trying to give her evidence and [Justice Greaves] said, ‘Next question. I said, next question. Shut up, lady. Now, look at what you have made me say; things that I should not say.’”
The appeals court judges were told that when Greaves realised what he had said, he told the stenographer, “Don’t put that in there, please.”
Hughes added, “There are several more examples where Justice Greaves behaved in a manner that, while the purpose for the intervention in some cases might have been legitimate, the way in which it was done was inappropriate.”
Hughes told the judges that Greaves’ behaviour caused his client to feel scared, and it undermined her ability to give her best evidence in a free and fair manner.
“We don’t have to guess the state of mind Ms. Douglas was in,” said Hughes as he read from a portion of the transcript. “Ms. Douglas told the judge, ‘I am getting scared. You are being aggressive towards me.’
“The judge then replied, ‘Call it what you like, but when I put the questions to you, you answer,’” said Hughes.
Toyin Salako, who prosecuted Douglas in the original case, told the appeals court judges that while she was not trying to defend the judge, his actions were meant to “assist Ms. Douglas”, and that he had treated all other parties in the case in a similar fashion.
“The way he treated Ms. Douglas was consistent with how he treated everyone else, including the prosecution’s witnesses and even counsel,” Salako told the judges. “He even referred to me as ‘she’”.
When asked by Justice John Goldring if the judge was rude to everyone, Salako replied, “It’s not the job of the prosecution to defend the judge or his actions.”
She added, “However, the difficulty was that the judge was trying to assist [Douglas]; it’s just the manner in which he did it.”
The appeals court judges declined to return their verdict on Friday, choosing instead to deliver a written judgment at a later date.