Magistrate Michael Laudat has denied an application made by defense attorney Tiyani Behanzin, pursuant to section 8 of the Mental Health Act to have murder accused Elbert Edwards admitted to the Acute Psychiatric Unit (APU) of the Dominica China Friendship Hospital for evaluation.
The 59-year-old Edwards of Marigot who resided in Woodford Hill, has been charged with the murder of his common law partner, 86-year-old Bernadette Nicholas of Grandbay who resided in Woodford Hill.
According to a police report, on the night of January 7, 2021, about 8:15 p.m., Nicholas was found lying in a pool of blood with multiple stab wounds to her body at the couple’s place of residence.
At the first court hearing on January 11, Behanzin pleaded with the court to defer the reading of the charge as he requested a hospital order for his client.
According to the former magistrate-turned defense attorney, Edwards has a long history of mental health issues which dated back to 2004-2014 while he was in Canada and on the day of the alleged incident, he was suffering from a withdrawal.
However, Police Prosecutor Inspector, Davidson Cadette raised some reservation over the application arguing that the “the attorney did not present an authentic document to the court,” over Edwards’ said illness.
Following arguments from both parties, presiding Magistrate Michael Laudat stated that before any order can be made, the court must be satisfied that there is enough capacity at the APU to house the accused.
He further informed Behanzin that the deferment of a plea on indictable matters cannot be granted at the Magistrate Court as the accused is not required to answer to the charge at that stage, only at the High Court.
The charge was read to Edwards and the matter was adjourned to January 18, 2021, as Magistrate Laudat issued a summons for the Superintendent of the Dominica Prison Services, Kenrick Jean Jacques to determine if the accused can receive treatment at the prison and the Consultant Psychiatrist at the APU, Dr Nadia Wallace as to their housing conditions.
However, when the matter came up for hearing on Monday, Dr Wallace was not present in court as, according to the Prosecution, several attempts by the Process Server to serve the psychiatrist proved futile.
Behanzin again pleaded with the court to have the accused evaluated to determine if he was at the time of the alleged incident in the right state of mind and if he is fit to undergo a trial.
Nevertheless, in handing down his judgment on the application, Magistrate Laudat denied the application for the Hospital Order citing his reasons as, “the defense have not submitted any information from a recognized medical facility or medical doctor as to the mental health status of the accused.”
“There’s no information before the court that the accused is or was suffering from a mental disorder. Without the information the court cannot make an order under the Mental Health Act,” Laudat explained.
Since bail was denied for Edwards, the accused is remanded at the state prison where treatment will be afforded to him as the Magistrate made a notation on his remand sheet for medical attention if needed.
The prosecution has until March 15, 2021, to file disclosure and the matter is adjourned to April 23, 2021, for Preliminary Inquiry at the Wesley Magistrate Court to determine if there is enough evidence in the matter to have it sent for trial at the High Court.
The death of Bernadette Nicholas is the first murder case in Dominica in 2021.