Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on Friday rebuked Attorney-at-Law Melvin Duke for failing to properly notify her of his desire to have an adjournment in a murder preliminary inquiry (PI).
The Chief Magistrate was also vocal in highlighting that constant requests for adjournments by lawyers are causing delays in dispensing justice.
Duke is representing 22-year-old Shelton George of Better Hope, East Coast Demerara, who is accused of killing Debra Blackman. The woman was shot and killed on April 23, 2014, when bandits stormed the Delicious Chinese Restaurant on D’Urban Street, Wortmanville.
The matter was scheduled to continue last Friday with closing arguments from Duke and Police Prosecutor Gordon Mansfield, who closed the case for the State on August 4.
However, the Chief Magistrate was forced to adjourn the matter until September 1, due to the absence of Duke, who failed to extend courtesy by sending a letter to the Magistrate informing her that he would be away on “business.”
In fact, the matter, which was slated for 10:00 am, started some 45 minutes after.
Prosecutor Mansfield was punctual and ready to proceed with the matter.
When the matter was called, George’s mother explained that she had visited Duke’s office and was told that he was away on business and that another Attorney would be sent to make an appearance in the matter.
When the Chief Magistrate asked the woman of the whereabouts of the other attorney, she replied “I don’t know” and stated that she does not have a contact number for her.
The Chief Magistrate told the woman that the court was not obligated to wait until her son’s lawyer appeared to continue with the matter.
Magistrate McLennan also said that she had granted Duke many adjournments.
She also pointed out that Duke sent no letter informing her that he would be unable to attend court.
Nevertheless, the Chief Magistrate stood down the matter for 15 minutes so as to allow the murder accused’s mother to make contact with an attorney from Duke’s office.
When the matter was called again, Attorney-at-Law Satish Kissoon informed the court that Duke was requesting that the matter be adjourned until the first week in September.
It appeared as though the Chief Magistrate was not pleased with this since she reiterated that these sorts of attitudes by lawyers were causing delays in matters.
Kissoon, however, extended an apology to the court on behalf of his colleague.
In the end, an adjournment until September 1 was granted by the Chief Magistrate, who made it clear that she will proceed with the PI whether or not Duke is there.
Recently, President David Granger at the opening of the Upper Demerara Magisterial District noted that Magistrates’ Courts are expected to dispense justice to citizens in a fair and swift manner in accordance with Article 144 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana, which states: “If any person is charged with a criminal offence then, unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.”
Blackman, 48, of Critchlow Circle, Tucville, Georgetown, was performing duties as a waitress at the Delicious Restaurant on D’Urban Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown when she was shot dead by an unmasked gunman. The ordeal was captured on Closed Circuit Television.
Earlier on in the preliminary inquiry, Police Sergeant Detective Junior Blair was called to testify.
Sergeant Blair is attached to the Forensic Video Analysis Unit at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters, Eve Leary, Georgetown. Some of his responsibilities include the extraction and analysing videos from Digital Video Recorder and cell phones.
Shelton George is also charged with attempted murder over shooting former Magistrate Fazil Azeez on April 25, 2015 at Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
According to reports, Azeez was shot during a robbery by a man who fled leaving a bag of money behind. Reports indicated that the shooter went to a construction site where Azeez was building a house, under the pretext that he was looking for a job.
The shooter reportedly approached Azeez to inquire about work, during which time he shot him.
George has been confined to a wheelchair for the past few years as a result of a gunshot wound he received to the back while in Suriname.
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