St. Maarten –The 17-year-old accomplice in the fatal stabbing of Kimberly Illidge on March 23 in Middle Region identified as E.J. was re-arrested last week Wednesday after the Common Court of Justice granted the appeal against his release from custody by the Judge of Instruction on April 18.
The suspect’s attorney Geert Hatzmann is not happy with the way this went down because he had to hear from a third party last week Thursday that his client had been arrested again.
The public prosecutor has also appealed the release from custody of the main suspect in the stabbing, a 17-year-old girl identified as D.A.B. Because her attorney Shaira Bommel is off island, this appeal was postponed until this upcoming Thursday.
Attorney Hatzmann did not feel free to release a copy of the decision by the Common Court of Justice to the media because the appeal took place in chambers – a non-public hearing – but he did comment on the outcome to this newspaper.
“The ruling reportedly reached me last week Wednesday via the general office-email. My administrative assistant has not seen this email. But why would the court send it to that email? The prosecutor’s office and the court have my personal email address.”
Because attorney Hatzmann missed the email, he was also kept in the dark about the immediate consequences: the fact that the police picked up his client the same day and put him back in a police cell.
“I had to hear through a third party about my client’s arrest on the previous day. This creates a certain image that is not good.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted on April 12 a demand to incarcerate Hatzmann’s client, who was at that time held in preventive custody at the police station. Judge of Instruction Koen Luijks dealt with the matter three days later and on April 18, he issued two separate rulings. The first one decreed that the custody was terminated. According to Hatzmann it is not possible to appeal such a decision.
The second ruling rejected the demand to incarcerate the young suspect – and that decision can in principle be appealed.
“The Judge on Instruction stated in his ruling to terminate the preventive custody that day program for young detainees had not been observed since April 5,” the attorney told this newspaper.
Attorney Hatzmann notes that with the decision by the Judge of Instruction, the preventive custody was in fact retroactively terminated per April 5. “That observation is crucial, because article 95 of the code of criminal procedures establishes that it is only possible to order the incarceration of a suspect who is in preventive custody.”
According to Hatzmann this was no longer the case on April 15. “This is why the Judge of Instruction rejected the demand for incarceration because my client was not incarcerated either at the time of the appeal, the court could not have done anything else but declare the prosecution inadmissible or to dismiss the appeal. This is a case of bad communication, ending with a ruling that is certainly up for debate.”
The young suspect was first arrested in the night immediately after the stabbing, in the early morning hours of Monday March 24. While the 17-year-old girl who was with him in Middle region on the Saturday night did the actual stabbing of her 20-year-old adversary, the boy reportedly provided her with the knife.
By law young suspects have to follow a day regime while there are behind bars. When the Judge of Instruction received signals that this program was not being executed, he personally visited the police cells and concluded that the conditions he had set for the continued preventive custody of the young defendants had not been met. He ordered the release of both the boy and the girl.
Judge of Instruction Luijks has ruled consistently in similar cases.
As this newspaper reported on April 19, the judge ordered on February 28 of last year the release of a 15-year-old suspect because he had been put in detention with adults. In September he took a similar decision in favor of a 17-year-old detainee.
Already last year Judge Luijks noted that the deplorable situation for youthful detainees is not new: “It has remained uncontested that the detention of minors in St. Maarten is a problem that has existed for years but that has so far received insufficient attention in the former Netherlands Antilles and in St. Maarten.
“Minors should not become the victim of this even though it has been established that there is a suspicion about a serious fact, that there is a risk that the defendant will do it again, and even if the legal order has been seriously shocked. It’s the competent authorities in St. Maarten’s move.” – TSXM