A staggering 238 prisoners are currently awaiting trial for murder at the Demerara and Essequibo Criminal Assizes. Of this number, 204 of them are males, and six female prisoners who are awaiting trial at the High Court in Demerara. The remaining 28 prisoners are all males who are awaiting trial at the High Court in Essequibo. This is according to a jail delivery released last month by the chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as it relates to the state of affairs of murder accused.
Those awaiting trial for murder at the Berbice Assizes are still not accounted for. As it is, the number of prisoners awaiting trial at the Demerara Assizes has slightly reduced since about 12 of them appeared during the ongoing October session of the Demerara Assizes and pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter. In other instances, one of them pleaded guilty to murder and was given a life sentence, while another was tried for murder, but was found guilty on the lesser offence manslaughter.
A total of 322 cases for varying offences such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, various sexual offences are listed to be heard at the October session of the Demerara Criminal Assizes which opened on Tuesday, October 1. Three judges have been rostered to preside, including one who has been assigned to the Sexual Offences court.
In Guyana, murder is among the few offences for which bail is not granted by a court. This means that the accused is remanded until the hearing and determination of a preliminary inquiry in the Magistrates’ Courts, and in some cases, until the hearing and determination of a trial before a judge and jury at the High Court.
According to the DPP’s website, a Preliminary Inquiry is a hearing [in the Magistrates’ Courts] to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and accused person in the High Court before a judge and jury. Once sufficient evidence is found, the accused person is committed to stand trial before a judge and jury at the High Court.
A closer look at the jail delivery revealed that of the 204 male prisoners awaiting trial for murder at the Demerara Criminal Assizes, 15 of them are to be tried for murder committed during the course or furtherance of a robbery, including Alvin Kissoon and Calvin King who are presently on trial.
In addition, of the 204 male prisoners who are awaiting trial at the Demerara Assizes, five of them were committed to stand trial before 2012. Kenrick Heywood, who was committed since January 13, 2005, is currently in the mental hospital. Mark Williams, also known as ‘Smallie’ who was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging for killing 12 persons at Bartica in 2008, was committed since April 04, 2015, in relation to another murder.
Also committed to stand trial before 2012 are Sherwin Nero, Cecil Peters, who is also mentally challenged and murder convict Michael Caesar. They were committed to stand trial on April 28, 2010, September 23, 2011 and November 10, 2010, respectively. Nero, who was acquitted of another murder earlier this year, is among eleven prisoners who are requesting to have an early trial.
Meanwhile, Caesar is among six prisoners who have requested to plead guilty to their various charges. Caesar is included in the four prisoners who are charged with murder; the remaining two are facing attempt murder charges. As it relates to the six females prisoners who are awaiting trial at the Demerara Assizes, one of them Brenda Ferreira, who is accused of murdering her three year-old son, is mentally challenged.
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