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Brad Boyce’s brother freed

By ANDRE BAGOO Wednesday, June 3 2009

MORE THAN a decade after Brad Boyce was set free of a charge of manslaughter, Boyce’s brother, Shawn Boyce, was last month freed of a charge of drunk driving in a low-key summary trial at Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court.

Shawn, who is said to be in his 40s and a managing director of an air-conditioning company, was charged with driving under the influence on July 15, 2007 in Woodbrook.

He was charged under Section 70 of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act which bans a person from driving or attempting to drive when “under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.” He faced a fine of $8,000 and imprisonment for three years as minimum penalties in addition to being stripped of his driver’s permit. Shawn’s summary trial was held before Magistrate Debby-Ann Basaw. The case, which saw two police officers testify, was a low-key affair held in the Sixth Court, which is one of the smaller courts on the second-floor of the St Vincent Street courthouse.

On May 7, two police officers involved in Shawn’s arrest testified in the proceedings. But on that date, Boyce’s defence attorney Jagdeo Singh made a no-case submission arguing that the testimony of the police officers was contradictory. He also argued that the elements of the offence had not been made out. The matter was adjourned by the magistrate to May 13.

On May 13, Basaw upheld the no-case submission and discharged Shawn.

Shawn Boyce’s discharge will, for some, evoke memories of the discharge of his brother Brad, in July 1998 by Justice Herbert Volney. Brad Boyce was charged with the manslaughter of Jason Johnson. In the early hours of September 1, 1996 there was an altercation outside a nightclub in St James, in the course of which Brad Boyce struck Jason Johnson a blow to the head.

Johnson fell to the ground and was taken unconscious to San Fernando General Hospital, where he underwent an emergency craniotomy later in the day.

On September 9, he developed aspiration pneumonia and was put on a ventilator, where he remained in a coma until he died on September 16.

Boyce was charged with murder at the preliminary inquiry stage but this was reduced to manslaughter and he was tried before Volney and a jury in July 1998. He put forward two defences. The first was that he had acted in self-defence. The second was that the blow had not been the cause of Johnson’s death, which was attributable instead to two incidents which had occurred in hospital: the insertion of a feeding tube into the lung instead of the stomach and the temporary failure of the ventilator. In a move that the Privy Council later said was wrong in law, Volney controversially directed the jury to discharge Brad Boyce after he questioned the qualifications of Dr Hughvon Des Vignes the forensic pathologist in the case.

During the trial, Volney took what the Privy Council later called the “unusual” step of calling his own witness and questioning Des Vignes. Volney later decided that Des Vignes was not qualified to give the cause of death and that his evidence was inadmissible and should be withdrawn from the jury.

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