Bermuda: Barbadian judge criticised for comment made in court
HAMILTON – The Court of Appeal has criticised a former Bermuda judge for saying he was getting “horny” during a murder trial.
Carlisle Greaves, a Barbadian who had served as a puisne judge until last month, made the comment as Troy Harris, a witness in the trial of Khyri Smith-Williams, testified that he had shared women with the defendant.
Smith-Williams was later convicted of the murder of Colford Ferguson and of using a firearm to commit the offence.
Jerome Lynch, lawyer for Smith-Williams, used the comment and others to say the judge had behaved inappropriately during the trial.
But the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal, although one of the judges, Sir Maurice Kay, said the court could not condone the judge’s comments.
“In particular, his comment ‘all this sex is beginning to get me horny’ was inappropriate and inimical to the dignity of court proceedings,” Justice Kay said.
“Mr Lynch was justified in criticising it. However, I do not believe that it damaged the defence or had the potential to undermine the safety of the conviction.”
Smith-Williams was sentenced to serve at least 35 years in prison last October, after he was found guilty of the murder of Ferguson by a majority verdict. Ferguson, a 29-year-old father of one, was shot dead in February 2011, as he worked on a house near the junction of Mangrove Bay Road and East Shore Road in Somerset.
Harris, a witness for the Crown, told the court that Smith-Williams confessed his involvement in the killing to him and admitted that he had driven the getaway motorbike.
He said Smith-Williams also told him that Rasheed Muhammad had pulled the trigger, and that Ferguson was not the intended target.
Smith-Williams launched an appeal against his conviction, which was heard in June.
In the hearing, Lynch criticised Justice Greaves’s handling of the case, particularly his behaviour during Harris’ evidence.
He argued that the judge had done little to rein in the witness’ use of vulgar language and that the “tacit approval” of the behaviour had lent it credibility.
In transcripts presented to the Court of Appeal, Harris cursed repeatedly, but the higher court found Justice Greaves’s response to the unsavoury language was not prejudicial.
“Anybody familiar with serious criminal trials, in this jurisdiction in recent years, knows the judge has a very personal style, whereby he engages with witnesses, defendants, juries and advocates in an informal way, often using casual language and rich metaphors,” Justice Kay said.
“In relation to Harris, it was important that the judge should facilitate his evidence, whatever it turned out to be.
“If he took the view, and I suspect he did, that the best course was to let the witness have his say, subject to the rules of evidence, rather than seek to inhibit him, it seems to me that that was an exercise of judgment which was open to him.”
Lynch also sought to overturn the verdict on the basis of new evidence, including an unsworn affidavit from Muhammad, but the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal. (CMC)