Appeal Court Rejects Transfer of ‘Die’ Stubbs’ Case

Stephen 'Die' Stubbs
Stephen 'Die' Stubbs

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an attempt by lawyers for Stephen ‘Die’ Stubbs to have his case moved before another judge.

Stubbs, a career criminal, is currently being tried before Magistrate Carlita Bethell on drug conspiracy charges.

Stubbs was out on bail from the 1997 shooting death of a police officer when he was charged with killing Samuel “Mouche” McKenzie, another drug thug who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.  Stubbs spent 17 months in prison when he assaulted a prison officer in an escape attempt. He was later released, then was caught with drugs.  He was again granted bail was then allegedly involved in an armed robbery.  Then, while in police custody, Stubbs was accused of threatening to kill Officer-in-Charge of CDU, Superintendent Leon Bethel.

Attorney Murrio Ducille said the charges are misconceived and his client is not a danger to society.

Anyway, Stubbs feels that Magistrate Bethell is biased against him because she allowed his trial to continue in the absence of his lawyer Murio Ducille.

However, the Court of Appeal judges did not think so, calling the request “forum shopping”.

“We believe the appellant’s real objective in applying for a transfer of his case from the first respondent’s court, was to ‘forum shop’ as opposed to his having any material fear that he would not get a fair trial before her, and that can not and will not be countenanced. Indeed, we find no reasonable basis for any fear that the appellant can not or will not get a fair trial before the first respondent. It is time that all counsel understand that courts do not exist for their convenience, but rather to ensure justice is dispensed in a timely manner. As an officer of the court, counsel is an integral part of the administration of justice and is impliedly committed to the concept of equal justice for all within an open, ordered and impartial system.”

Conveniently, Mr Ducille did not appear for Stubbs’ trial on December 2, 2010. It is not really clear why he did not appear.

But his associate, Krysta Smith and lawyers representing Stubbs’ co-accused, agreed to the trial dates of March 3, 4 and April 7, 2011, successfully delaying the case for another four months.

Delaying cases is a oft-used legal tactic in The Bahamas, where if an attorney can delay a case long enough, it provides justification for a judge to release the defendant on bail because they have waited too long for trial.

This is one of the reasons why so many murderers and rapists are out on bail.

For reasons not made clear, Stubb’s trial did not continue on March 3, 2011, as scheduled. It was adjourned until March 8, 2011.

When Magistrate Bethell announced the next adjourned day, lawyer Ducille asked “who agreed to this?”

Ducille then proceeded to tell the court, for the first time, that the date would be “inconvenient” for him as he had a matter before the Court of Appeal on April 4, 2011. He also reported to Magistrate Bethell, again for the first time, that he was scheduled to appear for a preliminary inquiry in a murder case in Grand Bahama on April 7, 2011, and so that date was likewise inconvenient.

Magistrate Bethell reminded Mr Ducille that his associate Krysta Smith had already agreed to those dates on his behalf. Bethell asked Ducille if he had anyone to stand in for him on those dates, but Ducille said Stubbs did not wish anyone else to represent him.

Certainly, the petty wishes of a career criminal should outweigh the necessities of the court’s scheduling requirements and the convenience of an attorney.

The court said that Bethell asked and rightly so, whether the cases were set prior to December 2, 2010, when, Ms. Smith agreed to the same dates for the trial.

In an apparent attempt to determine which court appointments were scheduled first, magistrate Bethell asked Ducille why he didn’t tell the appellate court that the date was not convenient when it was set in February 2011.

That, says Ducille and Stubbs, shows bias, as it really wouldn’t matter if he had told the court or not since proceedings in the Court of Appeal take precedence over proceedings in a Magistrate’s court.

But it appears that rather than showing bias, Magistrate Bethell was merely trying to figure out where things went wrong in the scheduling process.

The Court of Appeal said, “Although the first respondent’s enquiry was presumptuous in as much as hers is an inferior court to the Court of Appeal, and any fixture in this court takes precedence over a fixture in her court, the question is whether that could in anyway be construed as indicating she would not be impartial. At the end of the exchange, and over the protestations of counsel, the first respondent confirmed the hearing of the appellant’s case for April 4 and 7, 2011.”

The Appeal Court felt there was no evidence that Magistrate Bethell had prejudged the issue, or expressed any view adverse to Stubbs, saying that Bethells’ queries “were understandably directed to determining whether the trial dates were properly fixed in the absence of Mr Ducille, and to further determine whether Ms. Smith ought to have been aware of the other matters before the Court of Appeal and the magistrate’s court when she agreed to firm dates for the appellant’s trial.”

Curiously, it is not known how Mr Stubbs, who has spent considerable time in jail and has had no visible means of support for years, is able to hire such a high-priced lawyer as Mr Ducille.