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Kenton Chance Bertie Pompey

Journalist Kenton X. Chance, left, and Magistrate Bertie Pompey.

District 2 Magistrate, Bertie Pompey, on Thursday, ordered the media not to report on the evidence from the trial of government senator Ashelle Morgan and Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Karim Nelson, when the trial was ongoing.

The magistrate made the order in Calliaqua, on Thursday, during an exchange with journalist Kenton X. Chance, who is also executive editor of iWitness News.

The Mesopotamia Magistrate’s Court is sitting in Calliaqua for the trial. 

When Chance arrived at the court ahead of the 11 a.m. scheduled start of the second day of the trial, he was approached by the prosecutor S. Stephen Brette, who is deputy director of public prosecution in St. Lucia.

Brette showed Chance a link to an iWitness News article “Crime scene investigator opens trial of senator, prosecutor”.

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The article was published at 1:41 p.m. — during the lunch break of the first day of the trial and reported extensively on the evidence of Police Constable 933, Elroy Quammie, a crime scene investigator. 

The article was updated subsequently to correct minor typographical errors and the number of weeks that elapsed between the shooting and when the crime scene investigator visited the scene.

Brette told Chance that the article was a “verbatim” representation of what had transpired in court.

The prosecutor noted that other witnesses were yet to testify and said that they could tailor their testimony in response to what they had read of the proceeding.

Brette told the journalist that he would “prefer” if the testimony of Cornelius John, whose cross examination was about to resume, was not treated similarly.

At the time of the conversation, Chance had also published a detailed article about John’s testimony thus far

“You would ‘prefer’, or—?” Chance responded and the prosecutor said he could do it the other way and have the court say it.

“I would prefer that,” Chance told the prosecutor.

S. Stephen Brette
The prosecutor, S. Stephen Brette, who is deputy director of public prosecution in St. Lucia, outside the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. (iWN photo)

The journalist noted that the trial was not a preliminary inquiry — a hearing in which the media is constrained on what it can report — and that the court had not given any directive regarding limiting reportage on the matter.

Sometime after the exchange, Brette was seen in conversation with defence counsel Ronald “Ronnie” Marks, who represents Morgan, and Duane Daniel, who represents Nelson.

The lawyers subsequently went into the magistrate’s chambers together. iWitness News does not know what the prosecutor and the lawyers discussed together in the courtroom or inside the magistrate chambers, or if the magistrate was in the chamber at the time.

However, when the court opened at 11:21 a.m., the magistrate said:

“Before I proceed today, there is some information that came to me. It is about press reporting. Could Mr. Chance come forward please?”

Chance went forward and was directed to stand in witnesses area. The magistrate inquired about whether he was editor of an online medium called iWitness News. 

The journalist answered in the affirmative and the magistrate said that he had been told of a news article on the platform.

Chance inquired as to which article it was and the magistrate said he was coming to that. 

The magistrate, on receiving clarification from the Bar table about the article, spoke of the reporting on the case, saying that he had not seen it himself, and that he does not want the evidence of the trial to be reported while the trial is ongoing. 

Chance asked the court whether he could say something. He told the magistrate that since he began covering the court some years ago, and even before then, it has been the practice for the media, unless otherwise directed by the court, to report extensively on ongoing trials. 

The journalist said that the media would report on the evidence and the dates to which proceedings were adjourned. 

He said that has been the case including at Pompey’s court. 

The magistrate said he was not aware of it ever taking place in his court and if it happened, it was not brought to his attention.

Ashelle Karim Ronnie
The defendants, Senator Ashelle Morgan, left and Karim Nelson, centre, and Nelson’s lawyer, Ronald “Ronnie” Marks leave the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday afternoon. (iWN photo)

At this point Counsel Kay Bacchus, who holds a watching brief in the matter, rose and said that  while she understood the reasoning, she did not want it to be a precedent of the court barring the media from reporting on trials when they are in progress. 

Marks, on the other hand, said that such detailed reportage has serious implications for which there could be a mistrial.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor told the court that the article reported “verbatim” what was said in court, adding that the journalist’s notes were better than his. Brette further commended Chance on his note-taking. 

“I think they were just as good as Counsel Daniel’s notes,” Chance said. 

During the proceeding, Daniel, like Chance, used a laptop computer to take notes and in one instance, when the lawyer read from the notes, the court agreed that it was identical to the court’s record.

Chance further told the court that while he appreciated the prosecutor’s commendation about his note-taking, the iWitness News article was detailed but was “not verbatim”. 

He told the court that his reportage was not intended to disrespect the court but that he was merely following what had been the practice by the local media.

The journalist further told the court that in light of its ruling, iWitness News will not report further on the trial until it is complete. 

The magistrate and the prosecutor, however, said that the media can report on the trial but “not the evidence”.

Chance told the court that he would suspend reporting on the trial until it is complete. 

Later, during a break in the proceedings, Chance and another journalist covering the matter approached the prosecutor and asked him about the laws that support the application that he made to the court.

The prosecutor promised to supply them but had not done so by the time the proceedings adjourned for the day at 5:39 p.m.

Meanwhile, at 11:31 a.m., John was recalled to the dock and Marks continued his cross examination of the virtual complainant. 

The cross examination, which was suspended from 12:15 to 1:17 p.m. for the lunch period, ended at 3:29 p.m.

The court then heard the testimony of Rochelle Franklyn, an auxiliary police officer and one of John’s neighbours, who took the stand from 3:31 p.m. until 5:39 p.m.

The suspension came immediately at the end of Franklyn’s cross examination. The trial is scheduled to resume today (Friday) at 9 a.m. in Calliaqua.  

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15 replies on “Court orders media not to report on ‘evidence’ during senator’s trial”

  1. Avatar Of Juxtapose The Bigger Narrative.Juxtapose the bigger narrative. says:

    This case has all the hallmarks of a rigged case. The SVG government is now openly corrupt keeping the facts from the public. Then they does go abroad and declare that they are acting on behalf of the people of SVG. Wake up and live SVG.

  2. Avatar Of Far From Baselinefar from baseline says:

    Somebody wake me I’m dreaming, The SVG Elites and Vanguards smoking pipe and getting fat off pork, while we ask white Jesus will the nigger live or die. there’s no sunshine in our day, from dusk to dawn you can buy police issued Glocks on the street anyway, C’mon Pop, f..ck alyo. This Nation has a lot of growing up to do.

  3. Stop them Jah, it’s never to late to stop them brainwashing the younger generation. stop them Jah. I’m begging you. stop the white wash.

  4. Mr. Chance, that is such an unusual yet strange practice that a reporter reports on the evidence DURING the trial. Why do you think the other witnesses sit/stay outside when 1 is on the stand? is to avoid/prevent that witness from doctoring their original recollection/story. When you report evidence this detailed during the trial you give the next witness a front row seat inside the courtroom.

  5. Avatar Of G. Marlon MillsG. Marlon Mills says:

    This is not a good precedent!!! People should protest against this!!!

    Can you imagine if such an order had been in place for Yugge Farrell’s matter? The public would never know what was taking place with Yugge Farrell. Any one of us could be Yugge Farrell. Any one of us could be Mr. John!!

    This case with Morgan, Nelson and John is of interest to the public, especially where the Justice system in itself is under scrutiny. To tell the media that they can’t report is to tell the public that tbe Justice System is resisting that scrutiny. The justice system is there to serve the public, it is paid for by tax payers, so why should there be an order to block information from reaching the public.

    This is completely and absolutely UNACCEPTIBLE!!

  6. To begin with there are only two of the perpetrators while mr. John said there were three of them involved. The travesty starts there. Even OJ Simpson’s trial was on national TV in the US so what happened now. What is this executive privilege a la trump or what? I am beginning to question what the merits of this case is about.

  7. I went searching for such a rule against a reporter reporting in detail matters of the court and came up wanting. Court matters are televised in some cases I recall OJSimsons trial that was a public spectacle. What Kay Bacchus surmised about the only possible outcome of this case is now a real possibility

  8. Question class… Is Iwn being masked, muzzled or gagged?
    You are correct with any choice!! My only concerns about the reporting of the proceedings is that it appeared that the matters discussed in ‘side bar’ or ‘in camera’ may have been erroneously reported. (I was not present in Court so I stand to be corrected and promptly apologize.) Nonetheless, public opinion is already rife with misgivings about how ‘the authorities’ have dealt with this matter from Day One. There should be No Property In Witnesses and the Court must fundamentally search for the TRUTH in FULL VIEW and HEARING of the public. I would like to see Iwn be in-masked, un-muzzled and un-gagged. So why play this hide & seek with key witnesses? Surely if a witness tries to “tailor” his/her evidence to suit what was said in Court earlier, the cross-examination skills of the opposing counsel would illuminate his/her veracity or lack there of.
    Too much see-me-dee-née already! Let’s get on with this case. Public confidence in the judiciary demands it. By all reports so far it surely looks like Kah-mah-dee justice all the way. One lawyer already hinting at “grounds for mistrial” and the hearing is not even half way there! Is this the level at which we have reached? Come on guys and ladies!

  9. Heaven help us all.This whole court business is a joke so I’m laughing like a clown.The outcome is inevitable.Pity, but the longest road in the world is in Canada(YONGE STREET) but it have an end.Amen.

  10. Avatar Of The Last Of The Moneythe last of the money says:

    Our Democracy is under attack. Journalist being constrained at the courts’ behest. It happens and it is happening in little SVG. All that drama; for what? Kenton is a very energetic reporter a very talented journalist so, Why target Kenton chance? Like alyo wah charge he too. IWNSCG has covered this case from the beginning from all angles with no ill repute up till now. I would like for all of you, one of these day hold up a mirror to yourself and see if you like what you sees. Journalist must be Journalist and Lawyers must be Lawyers with their being any conflict of interest. It is people like Kenton who does show the best in us and what defines us. We are better than this.

  11. I was tempted to offer an opinion on the first article relating to the first witness testimony. However, I have rescinded my thoughts on the basis that this was an ongoing trial. There is a general principle that most court apply during testimony, which prevents subsequent witnesses from being privy to the testimony of earlier witnesses to avoid them changing their initial version or coercing. It’s not only in SVG.

    This happens throughout the British Commonwealth. The fact that full contents of a witness testimony is within the public domain gives subsequent witnesses the opportunity to change their version. Such actions can potentially prejudice the outcome of the trial.It happens differently in some jurisdictions such as the United States. This was most noticeable during the OJ Simson Trial. The decision to allow the media into the court room was made by the judge.

    Magistrate Berty Pompey was not wrong in his decision. However, he could have approached it slightly differently. What could have take place is that the reporter use a pseudonym for each witness whose testimony he is reporting on to avoid any potential form of prejudice to the trial. Instead of giving the witness correct name. For example, if a witness name is Bertram Browne he could be referred to as Witness S10 or Jake Hall etc.

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