Volney paying now

By Sasha Harrinanan
September 22, 2012 – newsday.co.tt

Herbert VolneyTHE firing of Justice Minister Herbert Volney, two days ago by Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar, was karma for his controversial 1998 dismissal of a manslaughter trial against Brad Boyce, who was before the High Court for the 1996 killing of Jason Johnson.

“Sometimes people ask, ‘Why this happening to me?’ But he (Volney) should remember what he did in my son’s case…he called the jury in and made a no-submission case. That wasn’t right,” said Nancy Johnson, mother of Jason, during an emotional interview at her Diego Martin home yesterday.

“What goes around, comes around, you know? It might take a little while but it surely will come back to you. He has gone down in post. Let him take that now, because he must remember what he did,” Johnson said as tears welled in her eyes. Sitting on a couch in the living room of her apartment off the Diego Martin Main Road, with her granddaughter Aleah Johnson, four, playing quietly nearby, Johnson fought back tears as she spoke about Volney’s dismissal over his request that Cabinet approve an early proclamation approval of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act on August 9.

Tears glistened in her eyes as she lamented what she described as her inability to get justice for the death of her son during an altercation outside the Edge Nightclub, Long Circular Mall in St James, 16 years ago.

“He was the Justice Minister but Volney did not give me justice for my son. He has to remember what he did to get that little boy (Brad Boyce) off the manslaughter charge. He should never forget. He should never forget that, because look what’s happened to him now. Look at his post…he’s gone,” Johnson declared.

On August 31, 1996, 19-year-old Jason, his younger brother Stephen Van Luke and a friend described only as ‘Cookie’, went to the nightclub. According to reports, at about 3.45 am the next day, the three exited the club and were heading toward their vehicle when they got into an altercation with another group. After that fight broke up, Jason and company reportedly heard the club’s promotions manager, Boyce, 19, cursing. During a fresh argument, Boyce is alleged to have punched Jason on the left side of his head. The teen collapsed, bleeding from his eyes, nose and mouth and suffering from a bout of fits. Jason was taken to Port-of-Spain General Hospital and later transferred to San Fernando General Hospital. Eight days later, he developed pneumonia and was put on a ventilator where he remained in a coma until he died on September 16, 1996.

The postmortem was conducted by Dr Hughvon Des Vignes who ruled the cause of death was complications of blunt cranio cerebral trauma. However the pathologist’s qualifications became the source of controversy during the 1998 manslaughter trial, which was presided over by then Justice Volney.

Volney, during the trial ruled that des Vignes was not qualified to give cause of death and that his evidence was inadmissible and should be withdrawn from the jury. He later directed the jury to acquit Boyce of the manslaughter charge. Shortly after the trial, Boyce left Trinidad for Canada where he lives at present.

On January 11, 2006 the Privy Council ruled that the Court of Appeal was wrong to dismiss the State’s appeal of Volney’s instruction to the jury in the 1998 manslaughter trial that they should acquit Boyce.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had appealed Volney’s decision under the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which came into effect on October 29, 1996. The Court of Appeal dismissed the State’s appeal on November 30, 2001, saying the new act was not consistent with the Constitution and that it had not been passed with the requisite majority in Parliament and therefore was not a law in force. In its ruling on the State’s appeal, the Privy Council found that if the Court of Appeal had considered the new section to be constitutional, it would have held that Volney’s exclusion of des Vignes’ evidence was erroneous in point of law.

Fourteen years later, the knowledge that the person whom she holds responsible for her son’s death, “walked free”, still upsets Johnson. However, with the passage of time, she has forgiven Volney for his role in Boyce’s acquittal.

“When I say I forgive him, I mean if God the Father can forgive, who is me? There’s a Lord above and He will deal with my situation one day. So he’s (Volney) forgiven but he will still have to go through his pain just as I have gone through mine. He called the jury in and made a no-submission case. That wasn’t right. God doesn’t sleep. God will be there. He will enact vengeance for me,” she vowed.

Volney’s dismissal as Justice Minister coincided with a very emotional time for the Johnson family in that Nancy’s husband Stephen, has been warded at Port-of-Spain General Hospital after he collapsed at home on August 1 (Emancipation Day).

“Maybe it was the stress of knowing the anniversary of Jason’s death was on September 16 and his (Jason) birthday is coming up on October 7. But we do have something to celebrate. My granddaughter will be five on Monday, so we’re having a party for her,” Johnson said with a smile.

It was one of the rare times when Johnson smiled during the interview with Newsday. During the interview, Johnson showed off what can be best described as a shrine complete with photos of her son surrounded by flowers and post cards. She proudly proclaimed that every year, on her son’s birthday, she lights a candle to honour his memory.

“All these years since he left me, I picture him in my mind as being away studying because he was a college student at the time of his death. So I pretend that he’s just gone away to university and one day we will meet each other again,” Johnson said almost in a whisper.


7 thoughts on “Volney paying now”

  1. Right decision

    Saturday, September 22 2012

    WE laud Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for firing Justice Minister, Herbert Volney, for falsely telling Cabinet he’d got the nod of Chief Justice (CJ) Ivor Archie and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard, to prematurely proclaim the controversial Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2012, yet questions linger, and indeed new concerns arise.

    The PM faced a public uproar over a rush to proclaim a law that critics saw as a sly move to shut off the time limit on legal proceedings to the benefit of a few dozen defendants including two top UNC former financiers.

    Facing a scandalised population — even after the repeal of Section 34 — the Prime Minister had no choice but to identify the culprit(s) in the fiasco.

    She met Archie and Gaspard who said they had never agreed to any premature or partial proclamation of the bill, in contrast to the verbal and written “assurances” given to Cabinet by Volney.

    In her televised address on Thursday, Persad-Bissessar sharply chided Volney for failing to give Cabinet an accurate and faithful account of the CJ’s and DPP’s views. “I hold everyone who is entrusted to their job to be accountable and whenever I feel such trust is compromised or integrity breached I will act decisively,” she assured. Persad-Bissessar vowed to differ to past regimes which had swept ministerial wrongdoing under the carpet. So far, those ministers she has fired include Minister in the Minister of National Security, Collin Partap, over a breathalyser row, and former Minister of Planning, Mary King, for nepotism, rejecting those ministers who do things inappropriately.

    This is certainly the end of Volney’s ministerial career. He must now resign (or be fired) as MP for St Joseph, because he had misled his fellow MPs in Parliament over this scandal.

    While no Government would want a by-election in such a marginal seat, we say Volney holds no credibility to represent those constituents. After all, his misrepresentations could well have unduly altered the course of justice in several court cases, even as he ought to have known better as a former judge.

    Volney is certainly one of the strangest political sagas in TT’s recent political history. In his political-rally debut, he held up a rubber snake — likened to the PNM — of which he vowed to cut off the head. In Parliament, he once championed a bill that would let police forcibly take an intimate swab from a rape victim, but the offending clause was dropped after a public outcry.

    Volney had controversy in his former career as a judge. The State successfully appealed Justice Volney’s 1998 dismissal of the “Gomes and Gomez” trial for possession of $13 million in cocaine, and a new trial in 2010 saw Rick Gomes given 26 years jail-time by Justice Gillian Lucky. In 2006, the Privy Council hit Volney’s instruction to the jury to issue a “not guilty” verdict in the Brad Boyce manslaughter trial. With this unusual judicial record, many saw Volney as a strange choice as MP and Minister in Persad-Bissessar’s Government.

    Now, many are questioning Persad-Bissessar’s exoneration of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in the Section 34 scandal. She said the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) said Ramlogan played no role in the process of forwarding a misleading Cabinet Note from the Cabinet Secretariat to the CPC and ultimately to the Office of President. Yet given Ramlogan’s previous failure to appeal Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh’s rejection of a United States extradition request for Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steven Ferguson, some critics continue to ask if he also had any role in the Section 34 scandal? Further, the AG is line Minister for the administration of legal matters in TT, and should have kept tabs on what was happening. The replacement of Volney by attorney Christlyn Moore makes us uncomfortable. She had been criticised for representing Ramlogan in his personal capacity in his defamation lawsuits against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, while she was also beneficiary of Ramlogan’s publicly-funded State briefs.

    Given these close and complex links to Ramlogan, we wonder if she will now be able to function as an independent Minister in a post whose previous occupant many critics are calling a “fall guy”, even as Ramlogan remains untouched. As said, for us it’s all a little too closely-linked for comfort.

  2. The Prime Minister LIED too:
    Persad-Bissessar, in an address to the nation on Thursday night, said Ramlogan was not in the country when the Cabinet note was discussed and approved. But Rowley said Ramlogan returned to T&T on August 4 and the Cabinet note was dated August 6, and it was insulting for the Prime Minister “to use that as a basis to exonerate the Attorney General.

    1. You macooing the AG again. Please leave the man alone. He is not the line minister on this dead issue. The line minister is the one responsible for bringing such issues to cabinet. The line minister said the CJ and DPP gave their blessings to which both CJ and DPP denied such…. Besides PNM criminals would have escaped with this law also. So they anxiously supported it UNTIL the airport issue arose. Then Rowley had his “aha” moment.

  3. I do not know the Johnson family whose story is portrayed in this piece. What I do know, is that justice in Trinidad has n ethnicity, a skin colour and social class. The lives of ordinary pople are simply not worth as much.
    When Mr. Volney was derogated at his appointment, because he is a “small islander”; I thought my people were being a bit backward, because both the composer of our national anthem, and our most famous calypsonian are from the rest of the Caribbean. Now it seems that some of those critics were right. The man seems to see different people differently, he gave the lie to the idea that justice was blind. His unseemly conduct, including allowing himself to be feted by Ish at his Tobago hotel, was disgraceful; and contemptuous of his position.

    His contempt for the rules, and the law came full circle. Now, I hope he takes a job in his home island.Please though, before he goes, do an audit of his finances.I would not be surprised if there are funds in his accounts- and those of his tantie and his nen-nen, that bear no relation to his paid renumeration for his official position. Do not let him go, until the apropriate authorities have cleared him. And remember Karma is a btch.

    1. ah few words came to my mind when volney jump on the PP band wagon but ‘small islander ” was never one of them.just to nmae a few : vindictive,crazy,lunatic,then me words turn into some short sentances sounding like this ‘wey d azz is dis? wey dey going with dat mad man? birds of a feather ? then ah boil down and start to cry ‘O!M!G!! T&T done ! we finish ! d end !! One thing still giving me a little hope, is because of modern technology the people have more ways of speaking out , reaching more people ,the world by a touch of a finger that put the PPP in a very ‘Pathatic Pissedoff Possistion (ppp) i am willing to bet if the media did not buss this wide open we would of never heard or known about the “error/ mistake” ‘ ?? OR by the time we did it would of been wey wey to late.Volney say he not going to appologize, Anand say we should move on. hit man Jack stop by Volney house and treathen him to shut to hell up about the meeting between volney and Kamla ,volney so fraid he call jack stopping by ‘support’he say he resign ,kamala say on tv she fire him,jack say he was in d meeting and he never hear volney offer he resignation. so we might see a snow ball effect here which they trying desperately to avoid because trust me, they too know how crazy volney is and any dam thing could come out he mouth.he done start to drop words ahready bout who taking kick backs so my advice to dem is to remember ‘when ya hand in the lion azz please withdraw with caution’ …..

      1. I would not have known he was from Dominica if someone else had not raised the issue It was in the daily papers.

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