Almost eleven years after being beaten into a fatal coma at the hands of police officers at the St. David’s Police Station, the Oscar Bartholomew Manslaughter trial finally got underway Monday before Madam Justice Victoria Charles-Clarke, at the St. George’s No. 2 High Court, with the empanelment of a nine-member Jury, and at least 25 witnesses listed on the indictment against four police officers.
Suspended police officers; Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness, Rody Felix and Wendell Sylvester, who had previously posted EC$100, 000.00 bail in November 2017, were committed to stand trial for Manslaughter, which is the crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder, in a verdict handed down by a Coroner’s jury.
Almost five (5) years later, the accused lawmen, represented by Attorneys Dr. Francis Alexis QC, Anselm Clouden, Arley Gill, and Ruggles Ferguson made their first appearance before Justice Charles-Clarke, who presided over a lengthy jury selection process that lasted well over two (2) hours.
Ganness, Felix, Sylvester, and Gibson were initially charged along with Police Constable Kenton Hazzard, who was, however, freed from criminal prosecution by the Coroner’s Jury in November 2017, and is now a witness supporting the Prosecution’s case, along with several retired and current police officers, and civilians.
Bartholomew, was a 39-year-old Grenadian-born Canadian citizen, who migrated 20 years ago to reside in Toronto, where he practiced carpentry by trade, and had only been back in the country for four (4) days when he was taken into custody and mauled by police officers at the St. David’s Police Station, during a 2011 Christmas visit.
The incident leading up to his unfortunate death had sent shock waves of outrage, and grief throughout the country.
The fatal beating of Bartholomew reportedly happened after he bear-hugged a female police officer, whom he mistook for an old friend, when he stopped at the police station in Petit Esperance, St. David’s, about one mile away from his hometown of La Tante, because his French Canadian wife needed to use the restroom.
According to the autopsy report, Bartholomew died as a result of a burst blood vessel in his brain.
Crown Counsel, Crisan Greenidge, is leading the Crown’s case against the four officers in the almost 11 year old matter, with assistance from Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Christopher Nelson QC.
Attorney Clouden has indicated his intention to “make certain submissions to the Court, in terms of the 4-year delay in bringing this matter to trial,” on behalf of his client, Rody Felix.
In an interview following Monday’s proceedings, Clouden contended that although the defendants are on bail “one has to go on record to show that in fact there has been an inordinate delay that has been highly prejudicial to my client and the accused persons because it has created tremendous anxiety throughout the process.”
DPP Nelson, who acknowledged that “the passage of time always affects a case (as) cases depend on witnesses’ recollection and memory,” however, he told reporters that “the nature of this case is such that those who witnessed the critical events will not easily forget.”
“Of course, there is the opportunity to refresh one’s memory from statements given in 2011, 2012,” the DPP stated, noting that while “there are some difficulties…we have trials in the past where much time has passed.”
According to DPP Nelson, given the number of witnesses involved in the long-awaited trial, it is expected to last at least one (1) month.
Bartholomew’s distraught mother was found hanging from a tree close to her home in January 2016, four (4) years after losing her son to police brutality.