Court of Appeal rules retrial of acquitted murderer “not in interest of justice”

Court of Appeal rules retrial of acquitted murderer “not in interest of justice”
(FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that a man acquitted of murder and armed robbery should walk free and not face a retrial as it is not in the “interest of justice”.

Court of Appeal Justices Maureen Crane-Scott, Roy Jones and Milton Evans presided over the matter.

Giordano Rolle Jr was convicted on March 10, 2017, and sentenced more than a year later.

But his convictions and sentences were quashed earlier this year following a successful appeal.

In the written ruling, which directs Rolle’s acquittal and release from custody, Crane-Scott said while several judicial errors occurred during the court of the trial, the Crown was responsible for a number of missteps that impacted the fairness of the trial.

She determined that it was not in the interest of justice to give the prosecution another chance to “cure evidential deficiencies” in its case against Rolle.

Rolle’s appeal was allowed on the basis that the appellate court determined the judge erred in law in prematurely ending the voir dire and in failing to rule on the admissibility of both the oral admissions in the record of interview and the caution statement attributed to Rolle in his police interview.

The appellate court said it was satisfied that the late disclosure by the prosecution of the DVD video recording of Rolle’s police interview negatively impacted his ability during the voir dire to test the credibility of officers; and it found the judge’s failure to redress the imbalance and the prejudice to the defense caused by the prosecution’s failures rendered the convictions unsafe.

Maryann Cadet represented Rolle.

“With Reid principles firmly in mind, we adverted firstly to the now notorious fact that the offenses of murder and armed robbery for which Rolle stood trial are very serious offences which are, regrettably, much too prevalent in The Bahamas,” read the ruling.

“We further acknowledged the interest of the Bahamian public in the proper functioning of the criminal justice system and the expectation of the public that persons who are guilty of serious crimes should be brought to justice and not escape it merely because of some technical blunder by the judge in the conduct of the trial.

“We noted that while several judicial errors occurred during the court of the trial, the Crown was responsible for a number of missteps which impacted the fairness of the trial.

“These were the late disclosures to the defense of the DVD video recording of Rolle’s police interview, which was in the Crown’s possession, together with the failure of the Crown prosecutor to adduce the recording into evidence during the voir dire.”

The appellate court found that from an evidential standpoint, the Crown’s case at trial was not particularly overwhelming.

There was no forensic evidence or identification evidence.

The only evidence connecting Rolle to the offenses came from the police investigators, who both attributed to Rolle “certain incriminating admissions which they claimed were voluntarily made by him in answer to police questioning”.

The appellate court said while it accepts a suspect’s incriminating admissions and voluntary confessions, when properly obtained in the course of a police investigation, may provide strong evidence of guilt at a criminal trial, this was a case where the admissibility into the evidence was under challenge by the defense on account of it having been obtained by oppression.