Vasyli defense claims character direction could have changed verdict
The outcome of the Donna Vasyli murder trial might have been different if the judge had given the jury a good character direction, her lawyer asserted in the Court of Appeal yesterday.
Vasyli is serving a 20-year prison sentence for the murder of her husband, renowned Australian podiatrist Philip Vasyli, at their home in the exclusive Old Fort Bay gated community.
Vasyli, who appeared even frailer since her conviction in October 2015, listened attentively to the arguments.
Her children attended to provide moral support.
Court President Dame Anita Allen and Justices of Appeal Jon Isaacs and Stella Crane-Scott QC are presiding.
Lead defense lawyer Clare Montgomery, QC asked the appellate court to overturn the 55-year-old’s conviction on the basis that the issue of her previously impeccable character had not been raised.
Montgomery said, “There is no dispute this woman is of good character and has led a blameless life.
“Even if there was a case to answer, we submit, it was a tenuous case, where a direction of good character and credibility could very easily have made a difference.”
Isaacs asked Montgomery if the point was raised during the trial.
She said although there is no request on the record, the request was allegedly made in the judge’s chambers.
Montgomery said that the evidence of two of the Vasylis’ employees and their business associate and friend Miles Pritchard showed the good relationship the couple shared.
She noted that Pritchard said that the convict had stood by her husband through his addictions. She also noted that she had urged him to ease up on his drinking on the eve of his murder.
Montgomery argued, “She wouldn’t turn to violence in the context of that relationship.”
Vasyli was the last person seen alive with the deceased, who died from a single stab wound to the neck. The killer used a Wusthof knife that came from a set in their kitchen.
There was also no evidence of an intruder, as the locks and windows were not tampered with and nothing was taken from the home.
Dr. Vasyli’s blood was found on two dresses that belonged to the convict — one that was taken from her when she was arrested on March 24; the other that was seized from her daughter’s home on March 27.
At trial, attorneys Elliot Lockhart, QC and Murrio Ducille presented a multifaceted defense, suggesting that Dr. Vasyli committed suicide or that an assailant entered the home from the beach without detection by the round-the-clock security provided at the gated community.
Vasyli exercised her constitutional right to remain silent, relying on her denials made during a videotaped interview with police.
Ducille and Michaela Barnett assisted Montgomery at the appeal.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Garvin Gaskin, Deputy DPP Neil Braithwaite and Floyd Moxey appear for the Crown.