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A male defendant, through his lawyer, continues to appeal to the court to have his guilty plea vacated, but Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards and the Crown are not accepting the reason being put forward.
Domingo Richards Jr. is accused of purchasing two wedding bands and a diamond engagement ring valued at $7,300 from a 16 year-old student for the price of $130.
During his court appearance today, February 27, he explained via an interpreter that he pleaded guilty because he was confused.
Richards' Attorney, Jennifer Jarvis-Roberts attempted to have the guilty plea vacated and pointed to the language barrier.
"I would submit that my client´s first language is not English...He explained that he thought that the question was whether he had bought the items to which he admitted that he did....He does not accept that he knew or believed the items were stolen which was his instructions to me from the first day. I was shocked when I heard his plead; maybe he did not understand the English spoken in court," Jennifer Jarvis-Roberts stated.
The Attorney noted that the usual question as to whether the difference between guilty and not guilty was understood was not put to her client when he first made his court appearance on February 4.
Senior Magistrate Richards pointed out that there was no discrepancy in the matter as she went to pains to ensure that the defendant understood what the charge was.
The Senior Magistrate said that she asked the defendant if he needed an interpreter and he said no. She also recalled that she asked the defendant if he understood the difference between `guilty´ and `not guilty´ and he said that he did.
"I cannot go into your client´s mind, I cannot. I explained to him. The only thing else I could have done was to make the plea for him...I used no jargons, I broke it down for him," Magistrate Richards said.
"I am really, really annoyed because if I did not go to pains to explain to him I would have accepted his explanation. That is why whenever they all come here I am at pains to explain to all of them, lawyer or not. Maybe now he wants to change his plea."
Crown Counsel Leslie-Ann Faulkner told the Court that the announced misunderstanding was a ploy to have the plea changed.
"On the point of Richard not understanding the plea and counsel trying to say that English is not his first language and if an interpreter was present he would have understood...Mr. Richard spoke to the court and he spoke English quite well. He was asked if he needed an interpreter he said no; he was asked if he understood the difference between guilty and not guilty, he said yes...it is an attempt now through the backdoor to change the plea," Faulkner stated.
She explained that Counsel on the last occasion sat through all the English and never indicated his first language is Spanish and may not understand.
"No good evidence was put forward as to why the plea should be changed, only that he is Spanish speaking. I don´t know if they are making a mockery of the case. He spoke English well the last time, now he is using an interpreter. He is now even speaking to his lawyer and there is no interpreter unless it is Spanish Mrs. Jarvis just spoke. I think the application for the plea change should be disregarded and we proceed to sentencing," Faulkner urged.
Jarvis-Roberts stated that she understands Spanish better than she can speak the language and also noted that at the time she did not have any authority that specifically dealt with the language issue she raised, but told the court she had no problem providing such.
Magistrate Richards asked the Attorney to find something stronger, and an authority that took into consideration the various grounds why the defence feels the plea should be vacated.
The matter will come up in court again on March 15.
Following his appearance on February 4, Richards, who is charged with handling stolen goods, wept bitterly in the corridors of the courthouse after his guilty plea.
The facts in the case are that on November 6, the Virtual Complainant (VC) and her fiancé had secured the home and left.
Sometime later the VC returned home because she realized that she had forgotten something. She parked in the driveway and proceeded out but realized she had forgotten the keys in the vehicle.
The VC then observed a young man jump out of her bedroom window.
She chased after him, didn´t catch him, but managed to get a good look at him. The VC went into her home and observed that the rings which were to be used for their wedding were missing.
The court heard that the police apprehended a 16 year-old from neighbourhood and he admitted that he broke into the apartment and stole the rings, which he said that he then sold.
The police visited Richards on November 7 and he admitted that he bought the rings. The police were then able to retrieve the rings and the couple was able to use them for their wedding.