A prisoner accused of murder, who has been in jail for over two decades, had his hopes of freedom for Emancipation dashed at the last minute after the State lodged an urgent appeal challenging the decision of a judge to quash his indictment.
On July 5, Justice Eleanor Honeywell-Donaldson ruled the murder indictment against Kevon Nurse, of Laventille,be set aside on the basis of extraordinary delay but granted a 28-day stay of her ruling to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC sufficient time to consider an appeal.
On Friday, attorneys representing the DPP filed an appeal and requested an expedited hearing and a temporary stay of the judge’s order which expires on August 2. The Appeal Court is yet to hear the matter.
Nurse, also known as Kevon Benoit, has appeared before some 25 judges both for five trials and status hearings, and was expected to face a sixth trial before he challenged the Director of Public Prosecutions’ intent to proceed.
In his appeal, the DPP contends that the trial judge erred in law in substituting her decision on the merits of the case against Nurse and usurping the exercise of the DPP’s power under Section 90 of the Constitution.
His lawyers intend to argue that the trial judge wrongly applied the principle for establishing a stay of a prosecution as an abuse of process as in the Nurse case there was an insufficient basis for the exceptional remedy of reviewing a prosecutorial decision among other complaints including parallel remedies available to the prisoner at trial.
Nurse is accused of murdering his uncle, Lester Ash, on Christmas Day, 2000, at Success, Laventille.
In 2019, Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds ordered a retrial for Nurse after jurors returned deadlocked after four hours of deliberations.
Ramsumair-Hinds was the fifth judge before whom Nurse went on trial. He had also appeared in 2000 before Justice Rajendra Narine; in 2003 before Justice Paula-Mae Weekes; before Justice Hayden St Clair Douglas; and again before Justice Alice Yorke-Soo Hon.
His trials before Narine, St Clair Douglas and Yorke-Soo Hon were aborted before they went to the jury for deliberation.
His trial before Weekes led to his conviction on June 18, 2003, but a retrial was ordered when he was successful at his appeal.
Nurse also appeared before at least 20 judges for pre-trial hearings and his case was adjourned either because the judges had to recuse themselves, Nurse was unrepresented or time was required by either side because of the unavailability of witnesses.
In October 2020, Nurse received the court’s permission to proceed with his judicial review claim in which he asked for a review of the DPP’s decision to proceed with sixth trial. In asking for the indictment against him to be permanently stayed, he complained that the continued prosecution was an abuse of process.
Nurse complained of the mental anguish he has suffered throughout the years in preparing for his trials while maintaining his innocence and of “participating in the criminal justice process without seemingly an end in sight.”
Nurse was represented by attorney Shaun C Morris before Honeywell-Donaldson. The DPP is being represented by attorneys Ian Benjamin, SC, and Nairob Smart of the Chief State Solicitor’s Office in the appeal.