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Retrial ordered in custody death

The prosecution on Thursday got another chance to convince a jury about the guilt of two officers in the death of a suspect who died in police custody in 2013.

The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial for Constables Akiel Smith and Carl Smith, who were acquitted of manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Aaron Rolle on the direction of Justice Vera Watkins last year.

The Crown appealed against the judge’s decision to withdraw the case from the jury.

Justices of Appeal Sir Hartman Longley, Stella Crane-Scott and Sir Michael Barnett (acting) agreed that the judge fell into error by usurping the function of the jury.

Rolle died at the lock-up at the Southern Police Station, also known as the Quakoo Street Police Station, on February 8, 2013.

Rolle, who had been arrested on the charges of armed robbery and a previous escape from the same station, was in good health when he was arrested on February 7. According to his autopsy, Rolle had broken ribs and a ruptured intestine.

He allegedly tried to escape from the inquiry room and was restrained by the officers.

A decision written by Sir Hartman said: “Aaron Rolle died from injuries which, on the evidence, could only have been sustained while he was in the custody of the [officers] at that time.

“When questioned by their supervisor, Sgt. Bain, who had observed that the interview room was in an unusual state of disarray with overturned desks and chairs, about what had happened in the room, the respondents claimed that Aaron Rolle had tried to escape and they had to subdue him to prevent his escape from lawful custody. When Sgt. Bain entered the room, Aaron Rolle was handcuffed and the windows were open.”

The court found that there was evidence to support guilt if the jury accepted the evidence.

The ruling said: “The jury could have taken a view of the evidence that the deceased died from injuries inflicted by the respondents and there was no lawful excuse having regard to the nature of the injuries.

“They may also have acquitted if they accepted the explanation or had a reasonable doubt as a result of the explanation that the force used was justified, but it is precisely in those circumstances that Galbraith required the judge not to usurp the function of the jury but leave the matter to them.”

 

Artesia Davis

Senior Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.

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