Former murder accused, Marcus Bisram has filed an appeal against a ruling by Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall, who did not award him damages for his unlawful imprisonment. This is even after the judge issued an order quashing his committal to stand trial for the October 2016 murder of Berbice carpenter, Faiyaz Narinedatt. In June 2020, the Judge issued an order quashing a directive by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Senior Counsel Shalimar-Ali-Hack to Magistrate Renita Singh for Bisram, to be committed to stand trial at the High Court in Berbice for Narinedatt’s killing.
Following the conclusion of a Preliminary Inquiry (PI), Magistrate Singh upheld a no-case submission by Bisram’s lawyers, thereby discharging the charge against him. The DPP immediately invoked her powers under section 72 (1) and (2) (ii) (b) of the Criminal Law Offences Act, by requesting that the depositions from the PI be sent to her, and directed the Magistrate to reopen the inquiry with a view of committing Bisram. The Magistrate promptly complied with the DPP’s directives. As a result, Bisram was rearrested.
“The evidence disclosed in the depositions did not meet the requisite evidentiary threshold to support calling upon [Bisram] to lead a defence at the close of the prosecution’s case. No prima facie case had been made out. The same applies to the committal of [Bisram]. The evidence is insufficient, or, in other words, it is not of the quality that a reasonable jury properly directed could safely convict on it. The state or extent of the evidence is a relevant factor that should have been taken into account by the DPP in arriving at her decisions,” Justice Morris-Ramall held.
Justice Morris-Ramlall, in analyzing the evidence against Bisram, noted that the evidence of the prosecution’s star witness “Chunilall” [only name given] was totally discredited and rendered manifestly unreliable. According to the Judge, “At the close of the case for the prosecution, the evidence of Chunilall was totally discredited and rendered manifestly unreliable. The evidence remained substantially the same at the close of the case for the defence.”
“The evidence is insufficient, or, in other words, it is not of the quality that a reasonable jury properly directed could safely convict on it. The state or extent of the evidence is a relevant factor that should have been taken into account by the DPP in arriving at her decisions.” The Judge pointed out that “Chunilall’s” evidence was the body and soul of the case against Bisram, and that there was no other evidence, direct or circumstantial linking him to the charge.
Apart from the order quashing the DPP’s directive, the Judge declared that the arrest of Bisram after he was discharged was unlawful. The Judge also made a declaration that his continued arrest was unlawful; an order compelling the DPP, Attorney General, and Commissioner of Police to release Bisram from custody forthwith; and another order preventing the DPP from bringing a murder charge against Bisram in the High Court.
Being dissatisfied with the ruling of Justice Simone Morris-Ramall, the DPP has asked the Court of Appeal for a review. For her part, the DPP is insisting that there was sufficient evidence for the lawful committal of Bisram and is asking that the decision of the trial judge be varied, set aside, and or reversed.
Among other things, Ali-Hack contends that “The Learned Judge erred in law in finding that there was not sufficient evidence for the DPP to direct the Magistrate to reopen the committal proceedings and commit [Bisram] based on the evidence of Mr. Chunilall’s recantation of his version of the facts but accepted that recantation of evidence does not automatically affect prosecutability.”
Dissatisfied that no order was made for monetary damages, Bisram argues at the Court of Appeal, “The Learned Judge erred in law when she refused to order monetary/vindicatory damages for the period [I] was unlawfully in prison because of the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the State.”
Bisram is also asking the Appeal Court for a declaration that section 72 of the Criminal Law (Procedure) Act, is unconstitutional in the view of Article 122 A (1) of the Constitution of Guyana. The appeal comes up for a full hearing on Friday, December 18, 2020.
Bisram remains a free man.