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Weak cases lead to bail for murder accused, lawyers say

Bail for accused murderers is a hot-button issue in this country. Several defense lawyersThe Nassau Guardianinterviewed said many suspects are given bail because of sloppy police investigations.

Last year, a judge released on bail three men accused of the murders of Sylvano Yasmin and Kenrick Dolphe within weeks of their arrests because of the weak evidence against the men. The prosecution withdrew the murder case against Don Phillipe, Wilson Toussaint and Knevunn Dean before a preliminary hearing was held to examine the strength of the prosecution’s case.

Dion Smith, one of the lawyers in the case, said prosecutors did the”honorable thing”by dropping the murder case. He said police charged the men based on Dolphe’s alleged statement that”Kool Aid and Knevunn shot me.”However, Smith pointed out that police failed to establish the identities of those people.

Smith said he was also able to show that Dolphe knew several people called Knevunn. He added that a witness to the shooting was unable to give police a useful description of the assailants.

Smith said,”Yes, I agree that murderers should not be given bail, but you’re presumed innocent until you’re convicted. And most people who are accused of murder should never have been charged.”

Trent Davis was freed on bail weeks after his arrest for the murder of Sergeant Julian Strachan of Her Majesty’s Prison. Prosecutors conceded that the evidence against him was weak.

Recently Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham acknowledged that police investigations are not at an adequate standard. He said,”We are not totally satisfied with the investigative work prior to the charge that the work going to court is done in total accordance with what is required to withstand defense counsel.”

Defense lawyer Ian Cargill said lawyers incorporate witness statements into affidavits during bail hearings. He said lawyers are often able to show the court that the evidence against accused people is so weak that a conviction is unlikely. He added,”And these are cases that they claim they’ve solved.”

In 2008, a judge granted accused murderers Stephen”Die”Stubbs and Deon”Emperor”Knowles bail after determining the evidence against them was weak. The Crown appealed, but the men were cleared of the charges before the appellate court delivered its decision. In both cases magistrates determined that there was insufficient evidence for the men to stand trial.

However, police still boast about the number of murders case they have solved.

Superintendent Leon Bethell, the commanding officer of the Central Detective Unit, toldThe Nassau Guardianlast month he does not worry about the outcome of cases investigated by his office. Bethell, a lawyer who has never practised in the criminal courts, said he”has a clear conscience”and thinks his office is doing its best.

Questioned last year about the poor conviction rates in The Bahamas, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade expressed a similar view as Bethell toThe Guardianon the role of the police in the criminal justice system.

“We do the best job that we can. You must remember now that when a file arrives at the court[it’s out of our hands],”he said.

However, a lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said,”A house does not crumble from the roof, but from its foundation and the foundation of any criminal case is the police investigation.”

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