Tue | Nov 21, 2017

After 17 trial dates, judge forces attorney to start case

Published:Friday | September 29, 2017 | 12:10 AMLivern Barrett

A High Court judge yesterday barred a defence attorney from backing out of a murder case that has been set for trial 17 times and mentioned another 33 times in the last seven years.

According to court records, Elvis McPherson’s murder trial was adjourned three times in 2012; one time the following year; three times in 2014; four times each in 2015 and 2016 and twice this year.

Prosecutor Kathy Pyke revealed, too, that on April 21 this year, when the trial was last adjourned, McPherson’s previous attorney Anthony Williams was allowed to withdraw from the case.

Prosecutors acknowledged that in some instances, they were not ready to commence the trial, while in other cases, McPherson’s attorney was not ready. In other instances, they indicated, no court rooms were available.

The St Catherine man has been in custody since September 2010 when he was arrested and charged for killing Vanessa Cooper in May that year.

When the case was called up in the Home Circuit Court yesterday, attorney-at-law Gladstone Wilson, who is representing him on a legal aid assignment, told presiding judge Martin Gayle that he too wanted to withdraw from the case.

DIFFICULTY WITH CLIENT

Wilson revealed that he and McPherson had “some difficulties” and the murder accused told him that he has contacted another attorney and no longer needed his services.

He reminded the judge that under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, an accused person has the right to the attorney of his choice and said he wants to “accede to his [McPherson’s] position.”

Pike opposed the request, arguing that Wilson had not posited any good reason why he could not “ethically” represent his client.

Gayle sided with prosecutors and ordered that the trial commence.

“I don’t see that the accused will suffer any significant prejudice,” he said.

“He has been given several opportunities and at the eleventh hour, the crown is ready to proceed and we are hearing that you want to back out,” he told Wilson.

“The word out there is the backlog in the court system. After 33 mention dates and 17 trial dates, this matter must start today,” Gayle ordered.

A seven-member jury was empanelled and the in-camera trial is expected to get underway today.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com