Pathways murder accused unable to afford lawyer, will get legal aidThursday, October 28, 2021
Justice Vinnette Graham-Allen yesterday halted court proceedings against André Ruddock as the murder accused was unrepresented in the Home Circuit Court.
Ruddock is before the court to answer to one count of murder and one count of wounding with intent, stemming from the killing of 39-year-old office worker Taneka Gordon at Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in Montego Bay, St James, on Sunday, October 17.
The stoutly built Ruddock appeared scared as he was ushered into the court, and while sitting in the dock told Justice Graham-Allen that he is unable to afford an attorney. The judge then started proceedings for him to get legal aid after Ruddock gave the approval when asked:
“Mr Ruddock, do you have a lawyer, Sir?”
“No, Ma'am,” Ruddock replied.
“Can you afford a lawyer?” the judge asked.
“No,” Ruddock responded.
“Do you wish the court to get a lawyer for you?” Justice Graham-Allen asked.
He mumbled an inaudible response and after the prompting of the judge, Ruddock said, “Yes, I do.”
“I am always very careful to ensure that the accused person has counsel before we go any further. I cannot depart and I will not depart from ensuring that the accused is protected. The role of the court is to ensure that the proceeding is fair,” Justice Graham-Allen said.
The judge instructed the court staff to make a request to the Legal Aid Council for Ruddock to get legal representation, after which she deliberated briefly with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, who is leading the prosecution, before setting the matter for mention again next Wednesday.
Attorney Venice Brown, who was in court, advised Justice Graham-Allen that she would represent Ruddock in the matter. The judge, however, stated that she wanted a senior lawyer on the case to work alongside Brown, who said she has nine years' experience.
Graham-Allen said the senior attorney who will be assigned by the Legal Aid Council must be in court on Wednesday along with Brown. Ruddock must also attend court.
Meanwhile, Llewellyn said she will be submitting a voluntary bill of indictment that will allow the Office of the DPP to skip several layers in the court proceedings for a speedier trial.
Gordon and another congregant of the church were killed and their throats slashed in an alleged cult-like ritual.
Other members of the church received injuries, including one man who was shot in the back, stabbed, and an attempt made to cut his throat.
Ruddock was to face the court with leader of Pathways International Kevin Smith, who died in a motor vehicle crash on the Linstead bypass on Monday while both were being transferred from Montego Bay to Kingston.