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A composite photo of Defence counsel Michael Wyllie, left, as he leaves the High Court on April 8, 2022, and a 2017 police photo of the accused, Twanecia Ollivierre.
A composite photo of Defence counsel Michael Wyllie, left, as he leaves the High Court on April 8, 2022, and a 2017 police photo of the accused, Twanecia Ollivierre.

Lawyer Michael Wyllie, on Friday, asked the High Court to remove him from the record as defence counsel for a woman who was accused of murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The lawyer maintained that his client could argue self-defence in the matter, but the accused, Twanecia Ollivierre, told the court that she did not want to change the guilty plea she had entered on the manslaughter charge.

Ollivierre, 19, of Chapmans, along with Alana Hudson, a, secretary of Campden Park, and Taylor Mofford, 18, unemployed of Belmont, were charged with murder in connection with the Sept. 4, 2017 death of Simonia Da Silva, 23, of Fair Hall.

Ollivierre was 19 at the time, Hudson was 19 and Taylor was 18.

After negotiations with their lawyers, Duane Daniel (for Mofford), Kay Bacchus-Baptiste (for Hudson), and Michael Wyllie (for Ollivierre), the Crown decided to reduce the charge to manslaughter and each of the accused pleaded guilty.

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The sentencing was set for Friday, before Justice Brian Cottle at High Court No. 1 in Kingstown.

Tamika DaSilva-McKenzie appeared for the Crown.

When the matter was called, Daniel told the court that he saw “nothing of material derogation from the facts as presented by the prosecution”.

Bacchus-Baptiste also had no “major dispute” with the facts.

However, when Wyllie spoke, he told the court that he had made a submission two weeks earlier, and having received the Crown’s submission, he had a dispute as regards what the prosecution had presented as the facts in the matter.

“This is clearly a case of self-defence,” Wyllie said. “Ms Ollivierre didn’t start the fight. She was pulled into the fight by the deceased.”

He made some allegations about the mother of the deceased and her boyfriend saying that because the dispute involved his clients’ friends, “she just went along to see what was going on.

“They ended up outside the deceased’s home and the deceased held on to Ms Ollivierre and pulled her into the yard, where the flight took place.”

The lawyer alleged that the mother of the deceased and her daughter “introduced the weapons into this fight”.

Brian Cottle
Justice Brian Cottle. (iWN file photo)

However, Justice Cottle asked the lawyer what the court was to do in circumstances where there is a sentencing exercise “and the facts, as you are presenting them to me, clearly amount to a complete defence.

“And since there is a conflict, what is the court to do?”

The lawyer said he had made a submission to the director of public prosecution about the facts.

He said he thought the DPP’s office would have gotten back to him and come to a decision about the facts.

“If you read the prosecution witnesses—” Wyllie was saying when the judge told him that the court was not going to be deciding on factual conflicts.

“That is not how this operates.”

At this point DaSilva-McKenzie rose and told the court that to her mind, the facts, as Wyllie presented them, “amount, in law, to a complete defence in murder”.

She suggested that Ollivierre’s guilty plea for manslaughter be vacated and the matter go to trial.

“Self-defence is a complete defence and it is a question for the jury to determine,” DaSilva-McKenzie said.

Wyllie said that was his position from the beginning but his client did not want to continue with the matter and opted to plead guilty to manslaughter.

Ollivierre Hudson Mofford
The accused in police photos taken after their arrest in September 2o17. From left: Twanecia Ollivierre, Taylor Mofford, and Alana Hudson.

On the murder charge, if convicted, Olliverre faces a starting sentence of 25 years in prison, while on the manslaughter charge, she faces a starting point of 15 years in prison, plus up to a one-third discount on her sentence for the guilty plea. 

The judge said that the law compelled him to enter a not guilty plea on Ollivierre’s behalf.

DaSilva-McKenzie confirmed that a trial of Ollivierre would take place.

“And that is on the substantial matter,” the prosecutor said, referring to the original murder charge.

At this point, Ollivierre began to cry and Daniel urged Wyllie to speak with his client.

“It is now a murder trial,” Daniel told his colleague.

“Daniel further asked if the matter could be stood down and Justice Cottle indicated that before making an order, he would rise for a few minutes.”

During the suspension, Wyllie said in the courtroom that he was not going along with his client pleading guilty to manslaughter.

“If she wants another lawyer, then so be it,” he said.

When the court resumed, Wyllie told the judge that after conferring with the accused, she agrees with what he said.

“However, she wants to get the matter over with,” Wyllie said, adding that he was “not prepared to go along with the prosecution’s submission.

“Therefore, I am asking to be excused to allow the defendant to get another lawyer.

After spending four and a half years pro bono on the matter, giving my service to the accused, I cannot go along with what the prosecutor has here,” Wyllie said.

Simonia Da Silva
The deceased, Simonia Da Silva in a 2017 photo.

Justice Cottle told the lawyer that his client had given him instruction. He asked Wyllie if he disagreed with those instructions because he knew better about the facts.

The lawyer, however, said that he knows what is in the documents presented by the prosecution.

“This entire submission is based on what the deceased’s mother said. There are witnesses who contradict what she is saying, clearly — the prosecution witnesses.”

He said that in his submission to the DPP, he had indicated that the Crown had not mentioned one word of what any of those witnesses said.

But the judge told the lawyer that he was not going down that road with him, adding that it was not the court’s function to evaluate what witnesses say and which witnesses a jury might believe.

Justice Cottle noted that the prosecution laid charges and that there was a preliminary inquiry which gave an idea of the evidence the prosecution proposed to leave.

“The jury will listen, as in every case, to many witnesses, who, quite often, give conflicting versions. The beauty of the justice system is that the jury decides which witnesses to accept, how much, and the facts.”

The judge said that sometimes he looks at depositions and he forms a view of which witnesses he might have believed and the jury decides otherwise but he does not try to substitute the jury’s view with his.

Wyllie responded:

“On what basis did the prosecution rely only on the mother’s account of what happened?”

Justice Cottle said:

“I see that I am not communicating clearly this morning. So I will stop there.”

He, however, said that as a practical matter, at that 11th hour, Wyllie was asking the court to allow him to withdraw from the case and appoint someone else.

Justice Cottle said that a new lawyer would need time to familiarise himself with papers, take instruction from Ollivierre and offer professional instructions to the court.

“The facts mentioned by the prosecution, in my estimation, are to increase my client’s sentence,” Wyllie said.

Justice Cottle commented:

“Mr. Wyllie, you have not been indicted. And so you are not called upon to plead.”

Wyllie, however, said that his position has little to do with the accused’s account of what happened only. 

“The facts mentioned here, in my opinion, are designed to increase the sentence of the accused with a bunch of misstatements, erroneous facts.”

‘I don’t wish to change my plea, please.’

The judge, addressing the prosecutor, said that it appeared that he was compelled to enter a not guilty plea.

DaSilva-McKenzie told the court that during the break the defendant had indicated that she wanted an audience with the court.

The judge asked the clerk to read the indictment to Ollivierre again.

As the clerk was about to do so, Ollivierre stood and said, “My lord, I don’t wish to change my plea, please.”

Justice Cottle said:

“Alright, thank you then. But still, I will need somebody to represent you in mitigation.”

He told Ollivierre that the next lawyer on the list was Patina Knights, adding that he could not proceed with the matter unless Ollivierre has a lawyer.

The judge told the accused woman that he would send the letter to Knights that day and the lawyer would contact her.

“I had hoped we would have been through with this matter before the [Easter] break. I don’t know what Ms Knights’ schedule is like and if she will feel comfortable dealing with the matter.”

Daniel then told the court that he and Knights are before the court this coming week in a sentencing matter.

He asked the court for five minutes to contact Knights to verify whether that would give her enough time.

The hearing was suspended for a few minutes and during the break, Wyllie left the courtroom, taking his papers and bag with him.

Lawyer apologises for colleague’s absence

When the court resumed, Daniel stood and apologised for Wyllie’s absence.

“I have no proper explanation save and except to advance, at the risk of giving evidence from the bar table, that he was seen heading to the parking lot with his papers,” Daniel told the court.

He continued:

“I would like to believe he misunderstood what transpired regarding another counsel, and he was under the impression that an order was made and he was excused.

“I offer that apology, just in case there was a misunderstanding.”

Daniel then informed the court that Knights had said that the time would afford her an opportunity to take instruction and mitigate on Ollivierre’s behalf.

The lawyer said he was willing to expedite the matter by giving Knights an electronic copy of the papers.

He said that he would need the court’s help in obtaining a copy of Wyllie’s submission.

The clerk passed a copy to him and Daniel confirmed to the court that he was in receipt of it.

Justice Cottle then said that at Wyllie’s request, the order appointing him as Ollivierre’s counsel was revoked and Knights appointed.

He said that so that the court would not lose that day’s hearing, he was content to hear mitigation on behalf of Hudson and Mofford.

The next hearing in the matter is set for Wednesday, when the judge will hear the mitigation on Ollivierre’s behalf.

The sentencing of Mofford and Hudson is scheduled for that day also. Justice Cottle also said he would try to complete Ollivierre’s sentencing on Monday.

7 replies on “Lawyer quits after client maintains guilty plea”

  1. You court system down in saint Vincent is pure popeyshow. Every time there are a court case I see no real action. You all are sending young men in jail because they had a gun that was never used or fired on anyone and when the gentleman got shot in his leg by one of the government man the case was dismissed. What is going on down there with this rigmarole system you all have in saint Vincent. The girl get killed because the parents instigate the fight. Lock the parents up also. Idiots.

  2. Agustas Carr says:

    Excellent decision by Justice Cottle. It appears there are aggravating circumstances surrounding the allegations in this case, and therefore Counsel Whyllie made an excellent submission as well.

    Clearly more needs to be done to reduce violence among youths in SVG and the wider Caribbean. This however requires a cross government approach and support. It begins first with a clear policy by the Government on how it intends to tackle violence.

  3. Sorry ladies but you 3 commit a horrible you all reach from road to the decease yard?? In self defense?
    25 years noless for all 3 of u

  4. Exactly! This is not a case of self defense. How is it self defense when they run her down all the way to her house with the intention to do some serious harm with beatings and stabs to Simonia’s body. Maybe it was even their intent to kill her. She tried to run to safety to her home but collapsed just as she reached. Her mother and step-dad were not attacking but only trying to keep the killers at bay…trying to save their child. But unfortunately it was too late. Self defense‽! The justice system better get their act together. They pursued her all the way to her home. Three of them against one girl. That’s why a manslaughter charge sounds very good to them because they know deep down they trying to get away with MURDER!

  5. Kudos to the reporter. First rate reporting and writing. I feel like I was there in that courtroom as the reader.

  6. Sad, another young life gone to waste. SVG Police are ignorant and lazy. You can’t depend on then to solve any case. Third rate third world Police force only good for abuse and boast monkey boast. Systemic corruption.

  7. Allan Oliver says:

    If you are recommending “25 years noless for all 3 of u” then that might have justified Mr. Whyllie demands for a murder trial, the lawyer should always look out for the best interest of the client, there clearly is more to this than we know at this point and a murder trial may reveal stuff that the prosecutor is uncomfortable with as it relates to confidence in their case, I have limited knowledge of this case but I would question if Justice is being fully searched here. I could be wrong, I’ve been wrong before.

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