The aggravated long-pending murder trial of Eugene St Romain has been halted while involved parties await a civil court decision. Nearly five months ago St Romain’s lawyer, Martinous Francois, filed a constitutional motion to have the case dismissed, on the basis that under the constitution a defendant is innocent until proven guilty and is guaranteed a fair trial within a reasonable period of time. St Romain has been on remand for seven years without a trial.
The case centers on the death of Verlinda Joseph, who left her Saltibus home about 7:20 on the morning of December 2, 2002 to have her school uniform adjusted by a nearby seamstress. She never made it to school. Later that day her father Eugene St Romain discovered her half-naked, brutalized body less than a quarter of a mile from their home.
According to pathologist Dr Stephen King, although Verlinda was a strong child her neck was broken and a chemical poured down her throat—after she died. The doctor confirmed the 12-year-old had been sexually assaulted. A bite mark on her body was also identified. The public was outraged. There were angry demonstrations, with speaker after speaking demanding police action. It didn’t help that then attorney general Petrus Compton acknowledged “the system let Verlinda down” but did nothing to compensate.
The only police suspect, St Romain was arrested sixteen months after the murder, on April 7, 2004.
A Preliminary Inquiry into the matter commenced on June 3, 02004 and lasted a record two years and one month. St Romain was committed in February 2007 to stand trial for Verlinda’s murder. In the interim he remained, as now, at the Bordelais Correctional Facility.
This is not the first time Francois has filed a constitutional motion to have the case dismissed. He had brought a constitutional case before civil court judge Justice Rosalyn Wilkinson in November 2009, alleging, among other constitutional breaches, the denial of his client’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
The constitutional case ended with Francois giving the Attorney General’s Chambers an ultimatum: he would withdraw the constitutional case if the criminal matter could be proceeded with at the next sitting of the Assizes in January 2010. It was agreed the case would be heard during the January Assizes. The January 2010 Assizes came and went and still St Romain remained untried and behind bars.
After much back and forth, the trial date was finally set for January 25, 2011. When the case was called on that day, Francois informed the court he had filed another constitutional motion for dismissal. Justice Kenneth Benjamin could not proceed because the constitutional motion superseded the criminal case.
The constitutional motion was heard on May 30 this year. The judgment is pending and there is no indication as to when it will be forthcoming. Following the hearing, a confident Francois told the STAR: “I am very satisfied with my day’s work. Not to pre-empt the judge, but I believe I will be vindicated. My submissions were justified and I feel very confident I will prevail.”
Francois spoke on his hopes for the case: “The DPP and the government took their time to do whatever they wanted. St Romain is innocent until proven guilty. This is not only about him. I hope this will be a benchmark for others so the DPP can hurry up and charge instead of remanding defendants for unfair periods of time. I hope to set a precedence with this case.”
This case has been in the public domain for almost a decade and there is a huge amount of interest as to the outcome of the criminal matter against Eugene St Romain. Added Francois: “I will always defend what is right, despite negative reaction in some uninformed quarters. This is not about me. It is not about what I think. It is about my client and how he has been treated by the system. If the case is dismissed, there are some who will not be pleased but I fear only God.”