Lawyer Michael Wyllie has appealed the July 2022 conviction of Veron Primus, 35, for the November 2015 murder of real estate agent Sharleen Greaves, 33.
He is also asking the court to review his 34-year prison sentence for the crime.
Wyllie is asking the Court of Appeal to find that Justice Brian Cottle erred when he “unreasonably failed to exercise discretion to postpone the trial”.
The lawyer said the trial was scheduled for June 13, 2022, pending the completion of the other of Wenson Bowman, in which he was also involved.
Bowman was being tried before High Court judge Justice Angelica Teelucksingh at High Court No. 2.
Wyllie said that Bowman’s trial had been delayed and encroached upon the time slated for the commencement of Primus’ trial.
He said that during Bowman’s trial, one of the jurors tested positive for COVID 19 and Justice Teelucksingh ajoured the trial for five days, as specified by the doctor. “Therefore, because Justice Brian Cottle dismissed the defence’s application for a postponement of the trial, defence counsel Michael Wyllie had to conduct both trials simultaneously in two different courtrooms from June 13, 2022 until July 12, 2022, when the Bowman trial was completed.”
Wyllie said that Primus’ trial was held in the morning and Bowman’s trial in the afternoon of the same day.,
“Conducting both trials simultaneously was very stressful for counsel Willie, which caused the agitation of his back injury and resulted in him not being able to attend a court for an afternoon session of the trial, which the learned trial judge Justice Brian Cottle, made negative comments to the jury,” Wyllie said.
He said that even without Justice Teeluksingh’s adjournment of the Bowman trial, the case would not have been completed before July 13, 2022, the date that had been scheduled for the start of Primus’ trial.
The lawyer argued that Justice Cottle “erred in law when he allowed hearsay evidence to be adduced by the respondent”.
He stated three points to support this argument.
“The reason the items seized by the police, including the knife that the appellant allegedly used to kill the deceased were not available to be submitted in evidence is that the items were sent to the New York Police Department (NYPD) for DNA analysis. The NYPD stated that they could not conduct a DNA analysis of the items.”
Wyllie further said Cottle erred in law when he allowed St. Vincent and Grenadines police witnesses to give hearsay evidence about why the chewing gum given to Primus by police officers from NYPD for him to chew for DNA purposes was not analysed.
“The police testified that the NYPD stated that the chewing gum was contaminated because it was thrown in the trash by the appellant.”
He said that Primus was not told that the chewing gum was for DNA analyses when it was given to him.
“The police officers were not experts and did not analyse the chewing gum for DNA purposes,” Wyllie said.
He further said that Justice Cottle erred in law when he allowed hearsay evidence to be adduced by the police.
“The police testified that one of the persons (named Ticks) from whom the appellant stated he had often rented vehicles noted that the appellant’s name did not appear in his book of persons to whom he rented vehicles; therefore, he could not have rented vehicles from him.”
He said that Justice Cottle also erred “by wrongly excluding admissible evidence”, adding that the judge failed to allow the defence to question a prosecution witness about the number of written statements she made to the police.
The witness, who was identified by name at the trial and in the appeal, is a close relative of Primus’ and was in a consensual sexual relationship with him.
Therefore, iWitness News continues to withhold her name, referring to her as the “key witness”.
Wyllie said that the key witness gave five statements to the police which contained “inconsistent and contradictory facts”.
He, however, said that in summing up the case, Justice Cottle inadequately directed the jury in relation to the approach that should be taken to the confession evidence.
He said the judge erred in law by failing to put the essential thrust of the defence case to the jury.
“That is, that the appellant did not kill Sharleen Greaves, nor did he confess [to the key witness] that he killed Sharleen Greaves.”
He further reasoned that the judge failed to leave an issue of fact to the jury by improperly commenting and misdirecting the jury on the appellant’s facial expression to an answer given by the key prosecution on cross examination.
Wyllie said that Justice Cottle commented that he made a particular note of the opponent’s facial expression because he found it unusual, which suggested to the jury that the appellant was guilty.
Wyllie is further asking the Court of Appeal to rule that Justice Cottle erred allowing the prosecution to cross examine Primus and defence witness Aliscia Primus — the wife of the Primus’ cousin — on alleged bad character and other matters of no relevance or probative import to the case, namely, Primus’ previous arrest and Mrs. Primus’ poor relationship with her husband and sister.
The lawyer is arguing that the judge erred by refusing to allow him to re-examine Mrs. Primus, to clarify the prosecution’s allegation that she had a poor relationship with her husband and the bad character issue raised by the prosecution in their cross examination.
He said that Justice Cottle also failed to direct sufficiently the jury concerning the inconsistencies of the testimony of the key witness, as well as Ronnella Bailey, Greaves’ secretary.
The lawyer said that the judge stated that the inconsistencies between what was said in their statements to police, their testimonies at the preliminary inquiry and the testimony during the trial did not matter because it was only what they testified during the trial that was evidence in the case.
The judge also failed to leave an issue of fact to the jury, by wrongly commenting and misdirecting the jury on what he deemed to be Primus’ inconsistent statements in his electronic interview and what he testified by saying that the appellants’ inconsistent statements were lies.
The lawyer said the judge did not allow him to cross examine the key witness about her continued sexual relations with Primus in light of the fact that she stated in her statement to the police and her evidence in chief that she continued her intimate relationship with Primus even after he confessed to her that he killed Greaves.
“The judge stated that the questions were not relevant, and asked for the relevancy of the questions. When the defence counsel attempted to explain the relevance of the questions, the judge objected to the defence’s explanation, stating that the defence counsel was trying to give evidence from the bar table.”
Wyllie said the judge wrongly refused to allow him to give reason for the line of questioning, saying the lawyer was giving evidence for the bar table.
He further stated that the conviction should be overturned because Justice Cottle “wrongly told the jury of his decision to admit the evidence of the appellant’s alleged confession, thereby allowing the jury to assume that if it was admissible, it must be true”.
Wyllie further stated that the judge wrongly demanded that he apologise to the prosecutor “for pointing out that the prosecutor in re-examining the prosecution witness Ronnella Bailey got her to change her cross examination testimony…”
He said the judge’s comments were highly prejudicial when he stated to the jury that the defence was wasting their time because he could not attend court for an afternoon session because of illness.
“Counsel Michael Wyllie injured his back and had a herniated disc, which became inflamed and quite painful from time to time, which on this occasion did not allow him to reappear on one occasion for the afternoon/after lunch session of the trial,” Wyllie said in the appeal.
He further told the appeal court that in summing up the case, Justice Cottle misdirected the jury that they must believe the evidence of the prosecution witness Police Sergeant 377 Angelo Duncan, whom he classified as an expert with respect to his testimony about the “unreliably and inauthentic nature” of the WhatsApp screenshots taken by Primus of his conversation with Bailey on Nov. 12, and 13, 2015 about his whereabouts, his rental of the Greaves’ vehicle from Bailey, and Greaves’ death.
“Moreover, the refusal to allow the defence time to provide expert evidence to rebut the prosecution’s expert evidence that the WhatsApp screenshot taken by the appellant and exhibited were possibly cropped, and therefore not authentic because they were missing the dates.”
Wyllie said the conviction was unsafe because the police testified that before Primus’ arrest, they arrested another man who had threatened to kill Greaves the same day she was killed.
“They conducted a search of this person’s house and found a pair of jeans pants covered in what appeared to be blood, but they did not conduct a DNA analysis of the blood to see whether it belonged to the deceased,” Wyllie said.
He further told the Appeal Court that the 34-year prison sentence handed down on Primus was “manifestly excessive, therefore wrong in principle” and not in keeping with the sentencing guidelines.
“Therefore, the appellant humbly requests that a sentence be reduced. The judge only relied on the aggravating factors and no mitigating factors in his sentencing. The aggravated factors added four years to the appellant sentence,” Wyllie said.