Murder accused sues State over 4-year delay in retrial

Murder accused: Lennox Wayne
Murder accused: Lennox Wayne

Lawyers for Lennox Wayne, who has been awaiting a retrial on a murder charge since 2017, have filed constitutional proceedings in the High Court in which they are asking that their client be admitted to bail. Through his lawyers, Nigel Hughes and Ronald Daniels, Wayne is also asking the Court to award him damages in excess of $100,000 for the breach of his fundamental right.

In doing so, they are contending that Wayne’s fundamental right to a fair trial within a reasonable time as guaranteed under Article 144 of the Constitution of Guyana has been infringed due to the delay in the retrial. In May 2017, Wayne, called ‘Two Colours’, and his co-accused Melroy Doris went on trial for the murder of 19-year-old cosmetologist Ashmini Harriram who was gunned down on July 10, 2014, at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. That trial ended in a hung jury.

Accordingly, the Trial Judge ordered that the men will face a retrial at the next practicable sitting of the Demerara Criminal Assizes. But almost four years later, the two accused killers have not been taken to court for a new trial. In the circumstances, Wayne is contending that his right to a fair trial within a reasonable time has been contravened.

In a Fixed Date Application (FDA) which comes up for hearing on March 23, 2021, before Justice Navindra Singh, Wayne is further asking for a permanent stay of the proceedings for the murder charge against him. He is seeking an order admitting him to bail pending the determination of the FDA. Apart from these, he wants a declaration that his right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time as guaranteed under Article 144 of the Constitution has been infringed; interests; costs, and such further or other orders the court deems just.

According to Wayne, in 2014, he was jointly charged with another for the murder. He said that a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the offence commenced in October 2014, at the Vigilance Magistrate’s Court. After a prima facie case was made out against him at the close of the PI, he was committed to stand trial by the Magistrate in 2015 at the Demerara Assizes commencing in January of the following year.

He said that his matter came up for trial in April 2017, and weeks later, ended in a hung jury. As such, Wayne deposes that he was scheduled for a retrial. Despite his name being listed on the Demerara Criminal Assizes for retrial in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, he said that he is yet to appear before a Judge and jury.

Wayne pointed out that he was advised by his lawyers and verily believes that they have made several oral and written requests to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and several State Counsel for his retrial to commence. These requests, he added, have been to no avail.

According to Wayne, he was also advised by counsel and believes that they inquired of the State Counsel from May through August 2020 about the commencement of the Demerara Criminal Assizes and also kept apace with the COVID-19 Emergency Practice Directions issued by the Supreme Court of Judicature, during which time no provisions were made for jury trials.

Having regards to the foregoing, Wayne is asking that the reliefs in his application be granted.

Harriram was shot dead just as she disembarked a minibus in Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. According to reports, the young woman of Lot 9 ‘B’ Lusignan Embankment and her mother were returning from Georgetown, when Harriram disembarked the bus. A man, who was parked waiting, took away her cellphone and shot her.

She was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival.