OPINION: By Leroy Smith
Jason Howard is one of two young men placed on remand on Tuesday (December 20,2016) by Magistrate Faith McGusty. Howard is someone who the police would consider a “Career Criminal” having had several brushes with the law for serious offences, some known and others unknown.
Jaws dropped on Tuesday when persons who gathered inside of the Georgetown Magistrate Court 8 and the charges were read to the accused ranging from murder to attempted murder and robbery under arms.
Reporters present in the courtroom hardly took their pens from their notepads as they sought to ensure that every charge that was read was documented accurately sparing no time for a courtroom glance.
For the accused, though, it appeared to be business as usual as he stood in the prisoner’s box seemingly undisturbed by the charges the Magistrate was reading to him and severity and consequences should he be convicted of even one.
With chains to his feet and handcuffs, the accused made little eye contact with the Magistrate except for when each new charge was read to him.
For his duration in the prisoner’s box, Howard used the opportunity to scan the courtroom with his full eyes, zooming in on detectives who are known to him even as he provided a facial expression as if to say “Are you police too?” to the persons who looked like detectives dressed in plain clothes.
He stared at me for some time also but may have quickly recalled that I was present with a camera in his face and microphone in my hand on December 14, 2016, when he was caught by the police or if by chance he did not recall that day, I was with a camera in his face as he arrived for court and after seeing the camera decided to extend his middle finger as a form of greeting.
I take it for granted that he fail to recall looking me in the eyes a dry afternoon with smiles on his face he ran down a street in Queenstown with a gun in hand and loot in the other. He had moments before robbed a fruit vendor and fired a warning shot to anyone from chasing after him.
Back in the Court Room, Howard, who was unrepresented was slapped with one murder charge, two attempt murder charges and five robberies under arms charges. It is alleged that he provided caution statements for all of those offences to the police.
Jason Howard is charged with murder committed on Mohamed and Jamilla Munir on April 17, 2016, at Good Hope East Bank Demerara.
Jason Howard is charged with robbery under arms committed on Boodnarine Boodoo on October 1, 2016, at North Road.
Jason Howard is charged with robbery under arms committed on Bibi Jabar on October 12, 2016, at Church Street.
Jason Howard is charged with the attempted murder of Avery Joseph on October 28, 2016, at Water Street
Jason Howard is charged with robbery under arms committed on Bibi Bacchus on November 6, 2016, at Plaisance, East Coast Demerara.
Jason Howard is charged with robbery under arms committed on Sheik Sadick on November 18, 2016, at Oronoque Street.
Jason Howard is charged with the attempted murder of Baldeo Seegobin on December 14, 2016, at Main Street. (Accountant attached to Tower Suites)
Jason Howard is charged with Robbery under arms committed on Baldwin Persaud on December 14, 2016, at Main Street. (Security Guard)
When instances like these come to fore, there is always a renewed called for reasonable judgment to be the guiding principles of the Magistrates in whose court these matters are called.
Earlier this week Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan who himself is an Attorney- at- Law and also served as a court persecutor for some time, reminded that there will also be conflict between the judiciary and law enforcement, as he spoke on the issue of granting of bail to persons who are charged with very serious offences.
A like belief was also expressed by Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud, who said that policemen and women have learnt at a very early stage in their career, their role as law enforcement officers is to bring law breakers to justice and the fate of suspects after that is dependent on the judiciary.
While representatives of the Judiciary do not respond or comment publicly on the issues raised above, there is also the question of pre -trial liberty for an accused in almost every offence except murder and treason.
Some Defence lawyers, however, usually argue that the police bring very weak cases to the court and fail to provide the court with proper reasons why an accused should not be granted his or her pre-trial liberty.
It is now left to the police to convince the court that Jason Howard is indeed responsible for the offences they claim he is and should not be granted bail. Heavy is the responsibility of the Major Crimes Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Guyana Police Force by extension, to prove their case.