By:St. Clair Sazam Hull
(CHARLESTOWN NEVIS)- The Magistrate Court in Charlestown District C Nevis resumed its sitting on Tuesday, February 7, 2017.
The matter before the Court was that of Denzil Parris, a resident of Bath Village. Parris was charged for malicious damage and pled not guilty to the charge.
According to Police Prosecutor, Eurita Percival, On Tuesday, December 20 2016, Police officer Royston Isaac responded to a call from Samuel James in Bath Village that the defendant had sprayed his wall with spray paint.
The Prosecution’s first witness was the victim Samuel James. He told the Court, that on the morning in question, he saw the accused opened his gate and started walking towards his property. James indicated that Parris was carrying a white plastic bag and he stood up at the beginning of his premises. He pointed out, that the defendant went right and then left and then started walking at an angle towards the left side of his property and started spraying. James noted that Parris then made his way by the second pillar of the fence and at that point, he opened his front door, rushed outside and his censor light came on. He noted that he told the defendant, “Tuckett I see you, I catch you”. James stated that he repeated it a few times and Parris stood still for a few seconds and he told him that he was going to call the Police.
James told the Court, that he moved the hook in his gate and Parris started running. He indicated that when he got outside, he saw something black fall from the accused and he kept running. James noted that his wife came outside because she had heard the commotion and he told her that he already called the Police. He stated that the black thing that fell from Parris was his cell phone and he told his wife, “do not let anybody take it up and do not let any car roll on it”. The victim said that he followed the defendant and he got a clearer view of the white plastic bag because all four long posts were equipped with lights. He said that Parris turned up a dark road and he shouted, “Police coming”, James said he did not pursue Parris any further because the road was dark.
He said when the place had brightened, he went up the same road and whilst going up, he saw a white plastic bag at the side of the road close to some bushes. James said he kicked the bag and inside was a spray paint with a red cover at the top. He further stated, that he asked someone for a bag and when it was given to him, he used his feet and kicked the white plastic bag into the bag he had received from the person. James said he did not want to touch the bag with his hand. He told the Court that he gave the bag to the police officer who came to deal with the situation.
James noted that the accused was wearing a black long sweater and a ‘washout’ jean pants. He told the Court, that the morning in question was not the first time someone had sprayed his wall. He indicated that his wall was sprayed on two separate occasions on Saturday, November 26, 2016 and on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. James stated that he was very good with keeping dates in his head and he remembered both instances like it happened yesterday. James pointed out, that when the police came he directed them to where Parris had dropped his cell phone. He also noted that the police visited his home and looked at the wall. He indicated that he was told by a painter that the cost to repair the damages would cost $ 1,956.98.
Defense lawyer for the accused, Ms. Mickia Mills cross-examined Mr. James. Mills asked James if he gave a statement to the Police and James responded and said, “yes I did”. The lawyer asked James why did he told the Court that he chased the accused four long posts but told the police that he followed Parris towards the new project? James said that when Parris turned up by the project, then is when he stopped following him. Mills asked the victim if he ran behind of the defendant and James replied that he walked fast and sometimes he walked slowly. Mills told James that he was lying about the road being dark because that was not the case and James response was, “The road is dark at the beginning but when you go further up there are lights”.
The lawyer also questioned James about him telling the Police about his wife guarding the phone. Mills told James that he never told the police such and James insisted that he told her to guard and it and don’t let anybody take it up or roll on it. Mills also asked James at what time did he started cooping Mr. Parris. James noted that he started about 4 am every morning but the morning in question was about 5 am. The lawyer told James that he was lying and he fabricated the story because he vex with Mr. Parris. She said, “You vex with Mr. Parris because he brought your wife to Court before and you vex because you think Mr. Parris spray your wall”.
The Prosecution’s second witness was Constable Royston Isaac. He told the Court, that on the morning of the incident, he was on duty at the Charlestown Police Station when a report of malicious damage was made by Samuel James. Isaac indicated, that he carried out investigations and visited the home of James at Bath Village. He pointed out that he met James at his home and he showed him a black cell phone case containing a cell phone in the road next to his premises as well as marking on his wall fence. The officer said from what James told him, he took the case into police custody and invited him to place his signature on the cell phone case and he did likewise.
The Constable indicated that it was established at the station, that the phone was owned by the accused Denzil Parris from information within the phone. The Officer told the Court, that Corporal Weekes handed him the photos that he took of the markings on Mr. James’ fence. Isaac said that he saw and spoke to Denzil Parris on December 26, 2016 about investigations he was making into a report made by Samuel James. The witness said he told Parris that it was alleged that James saw him marking up his wall with spray paint and he dropped his phone whilst running away. The Officer told the Court, that Parris started talking and he warned him not to say anything unless he wishes to do so.
Isaac noted that the accused continued talking and said that he saw the marking on the wall a month ago, but he didn’t know anything about it. He indicated that he showed Parris the cell phone that was taken from the scene and he asked him if he recognized it or had seen it before. He stated that the defendant said, “Yes the phone belongs to me, I miss the phone Tuesday morning around 3 or 4 as I normally take a walk around that time”. The Constable said that he asked Parris if he reported the phone was missing and he replied and said, “No”. He indicated that he arrested the defendant for malicious damage and issued him a copy of the warrant.
During cross-examination, Mills asked Isaac about what time he received the call from James and Isaac said he got the call about 6:20 am. The lawyer also asked the Officer at what time he got to the scene and Isaac said in about 5 to 10 minutes so he would have reached about 6:30 am. Isaac said when he reached the fence was already painted and he did not see Mr. Parris painting any fence so he can’t say for certain he painted it. Mills asked the Officer if he a search was conducted on the home of the accused and Isaac said no search was executed.
Corporal Javan Weekes was the Prosecution’s third witness. He told the Court that on the morning of the incident he received a call from Isaac and he accompanied him to Bath Village by the residence of Samuel James. Weekes indicated that James’ property is fenced with wire and concrete. He said that the fence is painted yellow and he observed that the left side of the fence had red discoloration. Weekes noted that he took photographs of the wall and the photographs were handed to Constable Isaac.
The accused Mr. Denzil Parris also testified under oath. He told the Court, that he knew Samuel James for about two years because they are neighbors. Parris said that about 4:00 am from Monday to Friday he usually goes for a walk then head to the gym. The defendant stated that he loves walking during that time due to the fact that he can catch the early morning fresh breeze and then reach at the gym at around 5:00 am. He indicated that on the morning in question, he departed his home about 4:15. Parris noted that he had got up at around 3:30 and was searching for his phone but was unable to find it. He said he came outside on the balcony to see if it was there and when he went back inside he heard a door closed by Samuel James.
The defendant said that he looked out, the lights were off and he exited his gate and went for his walk. Parris said that in order to get to his residence he has to past James’ house. He indicated that on the morning in question, he was wearing a black short sleeve addidas shirt and a grey sweat pants. The accused pointed out that he lost his phone when he past James’ fence while he was going for his walk. Parris said that he never sprayed James’ wall that day or any other day.
During cross-examination, Prosecutor Percival asked Parris how well he knew Mr. James and Parris said they are neighbors that is the extent of their relationship.
The Prosecutor told the accused, that they don’t speak and the accused replied and said that they used to speak but not anymore. Percival told Parris that he has been terrorizing James since he started living next to him and he has made complaints to the Police in the past. Parris said that he was unaware if James had made complaints to the Police. Percival also asked Parris if anyone in the project resembles him and Parris replied and said that is not a question he could answer. The Prosecutor told the defendant that James saw him spraying his wall and Parris said that James could not have seen him spraying it because he did not spray the wall.
In addressing Her Honor, Mills told the Court that the Prosecution’s job was to prove their allegation beyond all reasonable doubt and they failed miserably. She noted that the accused had nothing to prove and he gave the Court a plausible explanation about what happened on the morning in question. Mills said that the Prosecution did not bring anyone to substantiate their case because they had no case to begin with. Mills also pointed out the different time frames in which the Police got the call. She indicated, that James said that he called the Police just after 5:00 am when he was following Parris, but the Police said he got the call after 6:00 am.
The lawyer indicated, that the Police did not even take a statement from James’ wife seen as he claimed that she was the one who was guarding the cell phone. Mills also told the Court that if James had the accused cell phone in his possession there was no reason for him to follow him to see if he would have dropped the plastic bag. She also stated that it made no sense for the accused to continuously open a gate to make noise knowing fully that he might get caught. She also pointed out that Parris would not have dropped the spray paint when he was mindful of the fact that James was following him.
Mills said the spray paint was not even presented in Court. In closing, the lawyer said that James made up the story and the Court should not allow him to get away with that deception. She said that the conclusive decision should be in favor of the accused.
Prosecutor Percival also addressed Her Honor. She indicated that James knows the defendant extremely well and that morning when Parris opened his gate he was waiting for him. Percival said that nobody else in Bath resembles Mr. Parris so James could not have mistaken him for someone else.
In making her decision, Her Honor said that she listened to both sides attentively. She noted that the defendant had nothing to prove because the burden of proof rest squarely on the Prosecution and it never shifts. However, Her Honor pointed out that she watched the demeanor of both sides, and she believed Mr. James’ testimony one hundred percent. The Magistrate said that James knew his wall was painted on two separate occasions, so he decided to get up early and see who was doing it. She pointed that Parris said that he is unable to run but James demonstrated in the witness’ box exactly how Parris was moving along the morning when he was following him.
Her Honor was also of the view, that it was the same person who sprayed James’ wall on those two different occasions, but she was not going to hold it against him since he was not before the Court for that. The Magistrate found the accused guilty as charged.
The defense lawyer pleaded with Her Honor, not to impose a custodial sentence on the accused. She noted that Parris is seventy years old, was at the mercy of the Court, and charging him a fine might be the appropriate thing to do. Mill asked Her Honor to have leniency with Parris, noting that he has been a law abiding citizen for most part of his life. She said that there was an occurrence in 1975 when Parris got into trouble with the law, but that was a longtime ago and with time, he has changed.
Her Honor pointed out, that the Bible says to “Love your neighbors” and what Parris did was an awful thing and should go to prison. She was of the perspective, that if Parris had indeed changed from his last encounter with the law, then he would not have committed such an act. The Magistrate warned the accused not to appear before the Court again because if he is found guilty, she would send him to prison.
The accused was fined one thousand dollars to be paid in one month or he will serve six months in prison. He also has to pay one thousand five hundred dollars in compensation damages. He was given a maximum of three months to pay it or he will go to prison for 6 months.