Failure of the police to serve a copy of the certificate of analysis in accordance with the Drug Act, along with other issues of doubt, resulted in Michael Lavia and Daron Louie, both of Petit Bordel walking free from a major drug related case on Tuesday.
The men were charged with possession of 350 grams of marijuana with intent to supply; possession of 2,269 grams of cocaine with intent to supply; possession of the cocaine for the purpose of drug trafficking, and conspiracy.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne found the men not guilty of all charges, following a trial at the Serious Offences Court on Tuesday.
The prosecution’s evidence had revealed that the men who were travelling from Arnos Vale in a white Corolla Toyota PQ253, December 1, 2018, were intercepted at Villa around 7:30 p.m. by a party of police officers from the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), headed by Inspector Nolan Dalaway, acting on information received.
The Corolla was driven by Lavia.
What appeared to be cocaine, contained in two black taped packages, and marijuana contained in a brown taped package, were found stuck in the rear bumper of the vehicle.
Nothing illegal was found on the men’s person or in the vehicle. They denied knowledge of the substance.
Inspector Dalaway, under cross-examination by the men’s attorney Grant Connell, admitted that fingerprint testing was done, but did not pick up the defendants’ fingerprints. He said the only nexus between the men and the packages was based on an electronic interview with the men, but that interview was not tendered in evidence.
Under cross-examination, Connell showed Corporal Lafleur Williams a statement she prepared which confirmed that she had served only one of the defendants with a copy of the certificate of analysis of the substance.
Williams had served the passenger, and not the driver of the vehicle.
When the prosecution rested its case, Connell made a no-case submission, arguing that the prosecution had not proven custody and control of the substance, beyond reasonable doubt.
He pointed out that the investigations did not reveal where the vehicle was prior to the search, or who had access to it.
The lawyer said that in the absence of this, the prosecution was unable to eliminate the possibility of the substance being placed in the rear bumper by a third party.
He noted that Inspector Dalaway, Corporal Douglas Caesar and Crime Scene Specialist Constable Joel Williams, all said, under cross-examination, that the packages were removed from the rear bumper by the police with relative ease, and if given the opportunity, they could replace them without having to enter the car.
Prosecutor John Ballah, however, maintained that the prosecution had proved its case, beyond reasonable doubt.
The Chief Magistrate overruled Connell’s no-case submission, but the lawyer stood by his submission, and did not put his clients on the stand.
Ballah, in his closing, admitted that the case against Louie was weak, but that the case against the driver was strong.
But the Magistrate contended that the certificate of analysis was not served on the driver, in accordance with the Drug Act.
(Hayden Huggins The Vincentian )
Photo credit Iwin