CrimeNews

Taxi driver freed of teacher Kescia Branche’s murder slaps State with $50M wrongful detention lawsuit

Fifty-two-year-old Matthew Munroe, the Diamond, East Bank Demerara (EBD) taxi driver, who was freed earlier this year of the 2017 murder of schoolteacher Kescia Branche, has kept good on his promise to sue the State for violations of his constitutional rights. 
 
After almost five years on remand, Munroe, was in May of this year, cleared of the charge which alleged that he murdered the 23-year-old Richard Ishmael Secondary School teacher in November 2017.
 
Following his arraignment before Justice Sandil Kissoon at the High Court in Demerara, a jury was selected to hear the case after Munroe pleaded not guilty. 
 
However, as his trial progressed, Justice Kissoon indicated that the prosecution was unable to locate some key witnesses and therefore would be unable to prove the elements of the offence. 
 
As such, the Judge directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty and accordingly discharged Munroe.
 
Munroe’s lawsuit which claims more than $50.3M in damages for violation of his constitutional rights, including the wrongful advancement of a murder indictment against him, his wrongful detention for four years and six months and for a breach of his fundamental right to liberty, was filed this week by a battery of lawyers led by Dexter Todd. 
 
According to the lawyers, during a case management conference held by Justice Kissoon with them and the State prosecutor, the latter disclosed that despite there being no “real evidence” linking their client to the crime, he was instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, to still proceed with prosecuting Munroe. 
 
Given the weak state of the prosecution’s case, Munroe’s lawyers submitted that Justice Kissoon consulted with acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, SC, informing her “about the waste of judicial time and has since come to the conclusion that the prosecution will close their case and the jury will be so directed to return a verdict of not guilty…” 
 
Due to Munroe’s unjustified incarceration, his lawyers further claimed that he lost income totalling $8,640,000 as a marketing clerk and another $16, 200,000 as a taxi driver.  
 
Besides damages, the former murder accused is asking a Judge to declare that his arrest and detention for almost five years without a trial was unreasonable and was in contravention of Article 144 of the Constitution which outlines provisions to secure protection of the law. 
 
Article 144(1) of the Constitution 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.” 
 
According to his lawyers, the DPP holds a constitutional office and “at all times was obligated to act fairly, dispassionately, in accordance with the law and legal principles and without bias in the discharge of the constitutional responsibility vested” in her office. 
 
In addition, the taxi driver is also seeking compensatory damages, interest, costs and such further orders the court deems just in the circumstances. The lawsuit brought against the DPP, and the Attorney General was filed at the High Court in Demerara 
 
Branche, a mother of one, formerly of Cummings Lodge, Greater Georgetown, was found lying on Cemetery Road, Georgetown obliquely opposite the Le Repentir Cemetery office, at around 5 am on November 5, 2017. She was last seen after she left for a night out with friends.  
 
The teacher succumbed to her injuries on November 7, 2017, in the Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. A post-mortem examination revealed that she died because of brain haemorrhaging and blunt trauma to the head. 
 
Initially, the Police had picked up the father of Branche’s son and two Police officers; they were all released. 
 
The taxi driver was arrested upon his return to Guyana from a vacation in the United States of America. His cell phone number reportedly appeared several times in Branche’s phone, and he had left for vacation around the same time Branche was found unconscious. 
 
Further, reports are that Munroe’s car was impounded with a missing bumper which he claimed was damaged when he drove into a pothole along the East Coast of Demerara. However, he allegedly could not show the Police the location. 
 
In October 2018, Munroe was committed to stand trial for Branche’s murder after Principal Magistrate Judy Latchman ruled that there was sufficient evidence against him at the end of a Preliminary Inquiry.
 
Following his discharge in May, Munroe and his lawyers had implored the Guyana Police Force to reopen the investigation into the brutal murder of the young mother.