Mother pines over son on remand for eleven years

Not half way there but still wishing on a prayer the mother of remand prisoner Urban St. Brice.

Not half way there but still wishing on a prayer the mother of remand prisoner Urban St. Brice.

She sat on the hard wooden bench at the courthouse in Castries from 9 am on Monday morning. It was a place she was by now all too familiar with, having entered the revered yet shabby halls for more times than she can remember over the past eleven years. But while she has all but given up hope on the justice system, she says her faith in the justice which will one day be handed down by the God she believes in, has kept her strong.

Marietta Joseph is the mother of Urban St. Brice who in 2002 was arrested and charged for the murder of Dwayne Andrew. It would take four years and countless adjournments before then presiding High Court Judge Albert Redhead to sentence St. Brice to life in prison. Based on the testimony of a lone state witness, the Crown argued that St. Brice fatally shot Andrew with a single bullet to the abdomen near the Bois d’Orange quarry. Marcus Foster represented St. Brice at the time and raised a defense of mistaken identity. Months after St. Brice was sentenced, Foster appealed.

At the appeal hearing, lawyer Sean Innocent, representing Foster, argued against the conviction and sentence based on “the judge’s failure to correctly and properly sum up to the jury the law on identification.” Innocent also argued that the testimony of the witness “was weak and unreliable”.

Two days after the incident, the single witness had claimed not to know who shot Dwayne Andrew, but a year later at the trial, his sworn statement confirmed that he saw who did it. The manner in which the RSLPF handled the case was also questioned since they did not conduct an identification parade as required by law.

“There are dangers in convicting someone for murder purely on uncorroborated evidence,” Innocent argued.

Finally Innocent said Justice Redhead had also failed to remind himself of the new Evidence Act, specifically as it related to the question of identification.

Later, at a sitting of the Court of Appeal, presiding justices Hugh Rawlins, Dennis Barrow and Sir Brian Alleyne handed down judgment on the matter. The conclusion of the Appeal Court: The trial judge failed to highlight some of the evidence to the jury. The appeal was allowed, the conviction and sentence set aside and a retrial ordered at the discretion of the DPP.

That was in 2007. Since then Urban St Brice has remained in remand at Bordelais awaiting a “retrial.”

On Monday, after waiting outside for three hours, his mother was ushered into the courtroom minutes before her son, wearing neatly-plaited dreads, chipped up the stairwell in handcuffs for yet another court appearance. This time he was being represented by…Leonce. But within minutes it was all over.

Without even a comment from his lawyer, the judge read out the case number and the name of the accused, then proposed a new court date for St. Brice of January 20, 2014. There was a loud choops from the accused. His mother shook her head in disbelief yet again as he turned to glance at her. Minutes later he was whisked away, back to Bordelais where he spends twenty-three hours of each day confined to a jail cell.

As she clutched the bottle of water and peanuts she had brought for her son, Marietta was inconsolable.

On Thursday, the STAR sat down with Marietta, a mother of five, at her CDC apartment in Castries. She recounted that October day in 2002 when her son first told her that he had heard he was being accused of murder. “I was surprised to hear something like that,” she says. “But he went on to tell me that on that day…he was at a shop buying a can of milk and talking to an old man.”

Marietta, who is diabetic and suffers from high blood pressure, says her son was not a perfect child, but to the family he was a big helper. “He used to always check if I need medication and would quarrel when I would finish working at a bakery during the day and would have a tray selling at nights,” she says.

However, she kept stressing one thing during our interview: “I am not saying he is guilty, I am not saying he is innocent – God alone knows, but one thing I am sure of is that having my son locked up for eleven years awaiting another trial cannot be fair. This is not justice.”

Urban St. Brice is awaiting trial for the fifth time since being on remand. Charged with murder, he has gone through the process of a trial, a mistrial and then a trial at which he was convicted (strangely) by a juror from the previous mistrial. He has since gone through an appeal and a subsequent retrial which also ended in a mistrial, then yet another trial that incredibly once again ended in mistrial. And now he is awaiting a fifth trial after already languishing on remand all those years at the Bordelais Correction Facility.

So is justice being served in this case? And what are the reasons for the delay by the DPP’s office in ensuring that the case is heard “within reasonable time” as the law requires?

Perhaps the most curious occurrence during this litany of events was when one trial ended up in a conviction, with a juror from a previous mistrial being allowed to sit back on the retrial.

All this time, Urban St. Brice’s mother says she has forked out her entire life savings in legal fees for her son, having passed large sums of money to four different lawyers. But she is keeping hope alive, saying: “People have said to me that I do not pray enough, but to tell you the truth the Bible, Jesus and St. Anthony, that’s my hope. I am praying everyday. Even Urban when I spoke to him this week, he said mummy, everyday I read my bible.”

As we spoke, one of St. Brice’s younger brothers came in from work, and taking note of what was going on he added his thoughts. “Boy I really eh like what they doing my brother. He used to take care of our family and now there is no justice for him,” he stressed.

Marietta forces a smile as she informs her son of what she has prepared for the family to eat. “It is tough on me,” she says “but I love all my children and try to do what I can for them”.

However the mother, who lost a son at birth and another who drowned as a teenager, is not about to lose her son to a justice system which seems to have gone awry. She continues to hold on to a prayer that one day she will embrace her son as Urban himself embraces his 12 year-old son born four months after St. Brice was sent to prison. Her son, she says, has paid dearly with eleven years of his life.

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