Defendant wins appeal for KC in murder retrial

| 05/12/2023 | 17 Comments

(CNS): The Grand Court has overturned a decision by the Legal Aid director not to fund a King’s Counsel from the UK for a man facing a second trial for murder. Javon James Dixon successfully appealed the decision in the Grand Court, arguing that there were no KCs on the island who would be able to represent him when the crown retries him for the murder of Jovin Omar Fuentes during a chance encounter in Bodden Town in July 2022. Dixon was tried earlier this year, but the case ended with a hung jury.

Dixon, who is due to face the court again in the coming months, has been struggling to find new representation because the tiny pool of KCs in Cayman willing and able to do criminal defence work are not available to defend Dixon.

While there is no obligation on the part of Legal Aid to fund a senior lawyer in every murder case, it is very rare that defendants are denied access to KCs in order to ensure that justice is fair.

Given the power the state is able to wield when it comes to prosecuting ordinary people who don’t have the means to pay legal fees, especially when they could spend the rest of their lives behind bars, it would be unjust and inequitable for the crown to have more legal muscle than a person of little means and may even breach the Bill of Rights.

The Legal Aid director had refused Dixon’s application on the grounds that she did not think it was a complex case and his local attorneys were capable of representing him. She based this on the idea that Dixon’s local lawyer is a partner in her firm.

But Justice Marlene Carter, the Grand Court judge who heard the appeal, disagreed and stressed the point that Dixon is “facing the most serious of offences”. While it is not a technically complex case, she found that his lawyer’s status at the firm did not necessarily equate to broad ligation experience in serious criminal trials and that representing someone facing such a serious charge requires considerable trial experience and a different level of skill.

“The defendant is entitled to competent and experienced counsel,” the judge said, adding that if Dixon did not get legal aid, then he would, in effect, be denied the “level of competence and experience consistent with the gravity of the offence that he faces at the retrial”. As a result, she granted an extension of his legal aid certificate, which currently covers local junior counsel, to a senior lawyer from overseas.

Justice Carter pointed out that in addition to the defendant’s need for experienced counsel, it was also important for local legal professionals to work with senior lawyers.

“It is only with exposure to matters such as these, the scholarship and advocacy skills of King’s Counsel, that this jurisdiction can hope to have local counsel with the requisite experience and skill required to assist defendants facing the most serious of criminal allegations,” the judge noted.

Dixon is now expected to face trial in the first quarter of 2024.


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Category: Courts, Crime

Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The person who fought this fight is extremely commendable – why not make those lawyers KC’s? If they can do the work then properly promote them. Don’t just use it for cost cutting. There is no application to become a KC here like in other countries- you just get a discreet call from who knows and for reasons unknown.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s your right Javon, glad you fought for it!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    This will be unpopular, but he deserves good representation, as does everyone.

    This will urge the police and DPP to be more diligent. Any conviction secured will be that much more respected, as I don’t see Blacks coming forward to make a confession anytime soon.

    Not allowing access to KCs for serious charges is a very slippery slope.

    As for the character of this particular person, that is a whole different matter.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Our local low lifes and riff raff get the very best expensive legal representation for free but the rest of us law abiding people can barely afford a lawyer for even the simplest of legal problems we might have.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    he deserves the best available – been in jail over a year with no bail?

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Reshma, Alden, and Sam not available?

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  7. Annonymous says:

    Why is this non-Caymanian still Legal Aid Director. If the person is going to be difficult or unsuitable then let it be a local making the big bucks.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Duh – because to be qualified you have to be from Jamaica or the Eastern Caribbean. Is no one paying attention?

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    • SomeThingsDontMakeSense says:

      Adding to this she cannot articulate proper and professional grammar, spelling nor punctuation.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This is one of the extremely few countries in the world where the local population is outnumbered 3 to 1. Soon they will be voting on our way of life. Just wait and watch and see like you laid back Caymanians always do. When you get the same treatment as the Native Americans and Canadians did you will be embarrased to tell your grandchildren how you lost it all.

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