By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWO men charged with murdering another man in the Fox Hill community two months ago will appear before a Supreme Court judge in a month’s time.
Owen Williams and Steffen Rolle will appear before Justice Bernard Turner to be formally arraigned in connection with Richard Fowler’s murder on February 12.
The pair were served with their respective voluntary bills of indictment (VBI’s), which outlines the Crown’s case against them, when they appeared before Acting Deputy Chief Magistrate Subusola Swain on Friday.
According to reports, shortly after 8pm on February 12, police responded to an area near the community park in Fox Hill after receiving reports of gunfire in the area. The officers subsequently made a check of a vacant lot on Bernard Road, just west of the park and discovered a man with injuries to his body.
Paramedics were called to the scene and attempted to revive the man, but were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rolle and Williams were both arraigned before the acting deputy chief magistrate two weeks later.
At the time, Rolle claimed he was suffocated by having a fish bag placed over his head, and when he managed to bite a hole in that one to breathe, the officers doubled the bag. He also said he was beaten about his head with a heavy book, which he surmised was a phone book, and was forced to admit to things he didn’t do.
He also accused the police of wrapping his wrists with newspapers and placing handcuffs on him in a very tight manner. Rolle further claimed that as a result of the alleged beating, he has suffered headaches and shortness of breath.
Williams, meanwhile, said he was also fish-bagged, and also claimed an officer placed his hand over his mouth so he couldn’t breathe. Williams further claimed that one of the officers continuously dropped a 2x4 piece of wood on his chest. He also claimed newspapers were placed around his wrist before being handcuffed, and that he was forced to admit to things he didn’t do.
Williams also claimed he went to the hospital on two occasions while he was in police custody. On the first visit, he said the officers didn’t allow the doctor to see him, but instead met with the physician in a room in his absence. Afterwards, he claimed the doctor merely signed something.
He said on the second visit, he was examined by doctors, but the police officers did not wait for his medication.
Williams’ and Rolle’s initial arraignments were also almost derailed after assertions from Rolle’s attorney Bjorn Ferguson that there were no witnesses of fact listed on the charge sheet.
At the time, Mr Ferguson noted that no eyewitnesses were listed on the docket; only “formal” witnesses inclusive of police officers and pathologists.
That issue, Mr Ferguson submitted, meant the witnesses listed could not properly make out the offence of murder because they are “authorities” as opposed to accusers, an inherent problem as his client has a right to know who his accuser or accusers are.
Mr Ferguson said the charge sheet bore some six to seven police witnesses and about two doctors. The evidence of those witnesses, Mr Ferguson submitted, are “corroborative” in nature and do nothing to substantiate the murder charge against his client and his co-accused.
Thus, he submitted the Crown had not made out the murder charge against his client, something he said needed to be done if the court was to proceed with the arraignments.
Mr Ferguson further submitted that if that is the case, his client should have been released immediately, as he would have been in police custody since Monday or Tuesday of the week prior.
Mr Ferguson further considered the possibility that the names of the witnesses may have been suppressed by an anonymity order, but said he had not been served with any anonymity orders up to that point.
The senior magistrate agreed with Mr Ferguson’s submissions concerning the lack of witnesses on the charge sheet, asserting that the situation was “just not right” on the face of it, and could potentially form the basis of a human rights abuse claim. She also agreed that both Rolle and Williams have a right to know who their accusers are.
The senior magistrate ultimately decided to arraign the pair, but stipulated that by the time their VBI’s are served on them, the names of the witnesses as well as their statements would be included in the bundle.