Andrew Armour acquitted on manslaughter charge
Vessel captain Andrew Armour, charged with manslaughter in the untimely death of a 22-year-old American student in the sea at Mero on Saturday, December 1, 2012, was acquitted of the charge by a jury of seven women and two men at the Roseau High Court on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
The verdict followed a no-case submission by defence counsel Zena Moore-Dyer upheld by trial judge Colin Williams.
Armour pleaded not guilty at his arraignment before Justice Richard Floyd on Thursday, January 12, 2023. The matter was adjourned, and various dates were set before the case came up before Justice Williams at the opening of the September session. The Judge decided to go ahead with the trial on Monday, October 23, in the face of an attempt by Director of Public Prosecutions Sherma Dalrymple for an adjournment because two of her 12 witnesses were out of the jurisdiction.
A jury was empanelled, and the trial began on Tuesday, October 24. The charge read to the jury was that Andrew Armour, on December 1 2012, at Mero, by gross negligence, did unlawfully kill Casey Anne Schulman.
The state called Police Inspector Simon Edwards as its first witness. He'd been 23 years with the Marine Unit and was commander for two years up to 2019. His training covered international engineering, small craft operations, navigation, medical technician, damage control of vessel operations and operation planning.
To qualify for commander, Inspector Edwards had to obtain a pass mark of 98% in keeping with international rules of the world. It was a lesson for all present as he described what international conventions entailed. In short, the court deemed him an expert in Maritime Navigation without objection from the defence.
He told the court he knew about the matter involving Armour and his vessel named "Passion". Passion is a catamaran with two hauls. It is 75 feet in length and 35 feet wide. The centre console, where the captain or crew member controls the vessel, is elevated. The elevated console gives the captain a 360-degree view of his vessel and surrounding surface. The vessel is powered by two engines, one on either side and accompanied by two propellers. The catamaran, with its two sides, makes it difficult for the captain to see the centre under the console of his vessel. The captain would not see the propellers from where he navigates, not even if he walked around, because they are affixed underneath the hauls. The captain can only determine that the propeller is engaged by the instruments on the panel of the console or the vessel's movement when he has engaged the transmission.
Inspector Edwards said he was familiar with Mero Beach in 2012. An area off the shore was demarcated with buoys for patrons to have a safe swim zone and not go too far from the shore. At the time, the outer depth of the demarcated area was less than 15 feet to zero on the shoreline to ensure that children could feel safe bathing on the beach. At the time, the horizontal length was more than 30 feet.
Edwards explained how the captain should navigate his craft. He should be away from the demarcated area once he had disembarked his passengers who wanted to go on shore or in the water. Away from the demarcated area, the vessel could either be tied to a buoy or stay drifting till he is ready to re-embark his passengers. A prudent captain having his vessel drifting would have his boat ready for any eventuality which may occur, which includes a gust of wind pushing his boat to shore or the sea current drifting towards an area that the vessel should not be. He should be on the lookout for objects, including persons in the water and other crafts. He would also have his engine at idle for quick response and manoeuvring.
Under cross-examination, Inspector Edwards said Passion was not in the safe swimming area. It was in neutral or idling, and there was a negative force when the propeller was engaged, which would prevent anyone being pulled into it, but if someone dived by the propeller, the person could be touched by the propeller.
In the wake of the evidence from Inspector Simon Edwards, Zena Moore-Dyer indicated how she would proceed from there. She made submissions for nearly 110 minutes in the jury's absence on Wednesday. DPP Dalrymple took less than three minutes to make two points, the first of which was to agree with defence submissions. Dyer was back on her feet for another 13 minutes to drive home her arguments.
The Judge summarized some points from the depositions hammered away by defence counsel, noting that the Director of Public Prosecutions had agreed to the no-case submission. The jury was brought in for the first time at about 1:01 p.m., and the Judge directed them on the law. They returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty on the charge of manslaughter against Andrew Armour.