High Court Judge, Justice Thomas Astaphan has granted an application for the permanent stay of prosecution in the murder case against Yannick Lander. The Castle Comfort man was indicted on one count of murder for allegedly killing Duane Pinard at Castle Comfort in November 2008.
Defense attorney Zena Moore Dyer who represented the accused man filed an application for permanent stay in the matter. Based on her written submission to the court, she urged the judge to consider the delay of prosecution as prejudicial to her client.
However, the prosecution which was led by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sherma Dalrymple assisted by Marie Louise Pierre-Louis, objected to the application. Dalrymple told the court, of the prosecution’s 17 witnesses, seven were “unavailable.”
Nevertheless, should the court proceed with a trial in the matter, she stated that the prosecution would make an application pursuant to section 31 of the Evidence Act to have the deposition of the witnesses read in court.
The DPP urged the court to take guidance from the 2020 judgment of Justice of Appeal Davidson Baptiste in the Urban St. Brice v Attorney General (AG) of St. Lucia. Although the judge ruled that the long delay in the matter was in breach of the accused’s constitutional rights, Justice Baptiste noted that “When devising an appropriate remedy, the court must consider all the circumstances of the case. The court, in essence, has to look at the whole picture. In appropriate circumstances, a declaration by the court will articulate the fact of the violation of the right, but in most cases, more will be required than words. In my judgment, merely granting a declaration of the violation of the reasonable time guarantee would be inadequate given the circumstances of this case – more would be required.”
However, Justice Astaphan averred, the key issue to be determined was whether the passage of nearly 15 years without the matter being prosecuted infringed section 8:01 of Lander’s constitutional right.
He further posited that it would be unfair for the accused man to undergo a trial in which nearly 50% of the witnesses are not present in court thereby the defense team being unable to cross-examine them on their evidence.
“Half of your case will be untested evidence because of the unavailability of the witnesses. The alternative remedy is for me to order if there is a trial for none of the depositions to be read in court,” Justice Astaphan told the DPP.
His Lordship further contended that the right of the accused man to a fair trial within reasonable time has been infringed and the cause for the delays is irrelevant. “There is no doubt that the infringement has occurred but the question now is, what remedy should the court consider in these circumstances other than to grant the permanent stay,” he questioned the DPP.
“With the passage of 15 years, memories fade and the evidence [becomes] pale,” Justice Astaphan added. “How would an objective person in the gallery react to this case being tried against the accused?”
In response, the DPP said the prosecution was at the mercy of the court, and given the circumstances, she conceded that Lander will not get a fair and just trial should the case proceed.
As a result of the DPP’s agreement to the application, the court ruled that the “only fair” available remedy for the accused is a permanent stay of prosecution in the matter.
Justice Astaphan informed the court that his written judgement on this case will be handed down on June 30, 2023.