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CCJ Corner: Opening statements
Published on May 27, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anna Jacobs
Hugh Wooding Law School

Da Costa Handel Marshall v the Queen [2013] CCJ 11 (AJ)

The applicant, Da Costa Handel Marshall was jointly charged with Davidson Jones for importation, possession and trafficking 346.6 kilograms of cannabis (marijuana) under the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act of Barbados. Both men were found by police in a broken down boat southwest of Carlisle Bay in Barbados waters. Marshall was found sitting on some bales of marijuana in the boat.

Marshall’s defence was that he thought he was going fishing and knew nothing about the bales of marijuana. He was convicted and his appeal was dismissed. He applied for special leave to appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice. He complained that the prosecutor’s opening statement to the jury that he was caught “red-handed” was damaging and deprived him of a fair trial.

The Court emphasised that the “opening statement is the lawyer’s opportunity to tell the jury what he expects the evidence will be during the trial; this helps the jury to understand the evidence when it is actually presented.” Viewed in this light, the statement that the accused was caught “red-handed” simply indicated the type of case the prosecution intended to prove. The Court held that the remarks were within the normal standards of prosecutorial ethics and were consistent with the prosecutor’s role as a Minister of Justice. Given that no limit was overstepped, there was no merit in this ground of appeal.

The Court also rejected the alternative argument in support of the application for leave, namely that Marshall’s presence in the boat was not sufficient to establish possession. The Court noted that the judge in her summing up carefully presented Marshall’s defence and properly warned the jury that they could not find guilt by association.

Accordingly, the Court found that there was no real possibility of a miscarriage of justice. The CCJ dismissed the application for special leave.

This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at
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