Manslaughter without a body
A manslaughter charge laid against two men from Cork Street, Roseau may be difficult to prove without a body, says one veteran defense attorney. But like many others, he waits with bated breath for the outcome.
Local entertainer Kenny "Kenny G" Jno Baptiste along with Kent Lestrade is now on a $100,000 bail each, following their appearance at the Roseau Magistrate court last week charged with manslaughter.
According to the charge, it is alleged that on October 10, 2021, at Roseau, Jno Baptiste and Lestrade did unlawfully kill 21-year-old Dwight Adrian Carlton of Bath Estate.
Since manslaughter is an indictable offense–expected to be heard at the High Court before a Judge and jury– the accused were not required to enter a plea.
The alleged incident is said to have occurred during the passage of a trough system. In a now-viral video, an individual who is said to be Carlton was seen battling the raging waters of the Roseau River.
It is alleged that Carlton, who suffered from mental illness, drove away with Jno Baptiste's vehicle and later got into an accident.
The police have since reported that Jno Baptiste made a report on the day in question of his vehicle being stolen.
However, Jno Baptiste and others were seen chasing Carlton whilst armed with a dangerous weapon. In an attempt to escape the chase, Carlton is said to have jumped into the swollen river.
The police say relentless searches have so far failed to find Carlton's body, whose disappearance has sparked massive public interest.
Speaking to The Sun, a defense attorney who chose to remain anonymous says it can be very challenging to convict an accused person if the victim's body hasn't been found. "If they don't have a body, then the police are in a very difficult position. The police have to be able to eliminate the possibility the death was natural, or as a result of him drowning or even suicidal," he said adding that retrieving a body would give investigators details on the cause and manner of the death.
Nevertheless, he said, if the police have ruled a missing person case manslaughter and charges are laid, the public has to trust they have good reason to believe it. "There may be other factors that point to the fact that there has been some misconduct or transgression that has occurred. We have to actually trust the evidence that the police have even without a body," he said. Though the two accused men are now on bail, it wasn't without much persuasion by their lawyers in court.
At the hearing, police prosecutor, Inspector Davidson Cadette objected to bail citing three reasons to the court.
His first ground for objection was based on section 4 subsection 3 of the new Bail Act which states that any person charged with a serious offense or someone with previous conviction punishable by imprisonment, is not entitled to bail as a right unless this person satisfies the court that there is a just cause for doing so.
Inspector Cadette argued that both men are known to the court, convicted on matters of a serious nature.
Additionally, the police prosecutor stated that the alleged offense is grave and in the public interest, he requested that bail be withheld.
Cadette further revealed that the investigation in the matter is still ongoing and that investigators are in search of other persons reportedly involved in this case.
"We understand the constitutional rights of the accused men standing before this court; however, we are asking the court to respectfully allow the prosecution at least three weeks so that we can continue the investigation, and thereafter, they may be brought back here and a further application can be made for bail," he pleaded.
However, Wayne Norde, one of the attorneys representing Jno Baptiste and Lestrade debunked the prosecution's grounds for objection to bail labeling them as "empty."
He insisted that the nine days in which his clients were in custody should have been sufficient time for a thorough investigation. Norde argued that ongoing investigations by the police are not grounds for objection as charges should only be laid after investigations are completed.
"Nowhere in the Bail Act says that bail should be refused or denied because police investigations are continuing. What the prosecution and the police must do is investigate and then arrest. You do not arrest someone, put them at Stockfarm, then you seek time; that is wrong and they are doing it back to front," Norde declared.
The attorney further pointed out to the court that persons have been granted bail for more serious offenses such as murder and averred that manslaughter is a bail-able offense in the Magistrate court and that the prosecutor was misguided in his reference to section 4 of the new Bail Act.
Another of the defendant's attorneys, Kondwani Williams, argued that the purpose for bail is to secure the defendant's attendance at the hearing but contended that the prosecution presented nothing which would prevent the defendants from showing up to court.
"We say to this court that these defendants should not be denied their liberty based on suspicion of possibility while the police look for some basis to sustain their charges. Under these circumstances, to remand these men would be to further punish them. The prosecution grounds are weak and they should not stand," Williams said.
In handing down his judgment, presiding magistrate Hansel Valarie said that while he understands the position of the prosecution, the court operates under the umbrella of the Bail Act.
He noted that while a number of offenses to include murder and treason are unbailable offenses according to the Bail Act, manslaughter is not on the list.
Bail was granted with very stringent conditions.
Theona and Ricky Joseph stood as sureties for Jno Baptiste while Brian Dequental is the surety for Lestrade.
The matter is adjourned to February 28, 2022, for preliminary inquiry where it will be determined if there is enough evidence for the matter to be tried at the High Court.
By Ronalda Luke