History was made, as Antigua and Barbuda on Monday October 3rd 2016, became one of the first countries in the OECS sub region to use live video feed from a witness outside the state to provide evidence in a criminal trial in the High Court. This was made possible by the passing of the Evidence (Special provisions) (Amendment) Act 2016.
The live video link was used on Monday in an ongoing murder trial of Italian national Umberto Schenato, who is on trial for murdering his wife on June 3rd 2013 at the Epicurean Supermarket parking lot.
The live video feed evidence was taken from an American citizen from Ohio, who was visiting Antigua and Barbuda on vacation when the incident occurred.
The American gave evidence that he and his wife had just finished shopping at the super market and were pushing the shopping cart to their vehicle, when he noticed Schenato and his wife standing as if they were arguing.
He then saw when Schenato pushed his wife; they both fell to the ground between two parked cars. The witness then said, he ran to where they fell, when he got there, he saw Schenato on top of the lady, like he was punching or pounding her.
He said after realizing that the accused was not punching but actually stabbing her, he started to punch Schenato in the head, back and liver. Schenato continued to stab her brutally; at that time the witness said that he noticed blood and the knife.
The witness evidence from the video link was led by Director of Public Prosecution Anthony Armstrong, after which the witness was crossed examined by Mr. Lawrence Daniel attorney representing Shenato.
Armstrong said the passing of this legislation represents a milestone in our legal development and history. The legislation now makes it possible for witnesses whether for the crown or defence, who are not present in state, to give their evidence where ever they are.
“This will result in tremendous savings for the country in terms of the state no longer necessarily having to bring witnesses from abroad, therefore saving expenses of airfare and accommodation. Yet still able to have witnesses give their evidence just as effectively as though they were right there in court room,” DPP added.
He continued that the process will be highly convenient for the crown, defense and witnesses who are sometimes not able to travel to Antigua and Barbuda for various reasons.
Before the witness’s evidence can be taken both the crown and defense must give each other at least five days’ notice of their intension to do so.
Commenting on the Development, the Attorney General the Hon. Steadroy Cutie Benjamin stated that this development was yet another step in enhancing the administration of justice by the facilitation of evidence being admissible via live video link, thereby permitting more expedient resolution of matters in the court.
Benjamin said in the past matters in the high court had to be adjourned because witnesses were overseas and were unable to attend court to give evidence.