Attorney Krysta A Mason-Smith has added another rung of success to her belt and has gained invaluable experience litigating at the Privy Council level when she and her Co-Appellants won a case for their client, Vinson Ariste.
Ariste was vindicated after a 12 year-long imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill after he was found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to 15 years.
In a case decided on May 31, 2023, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council pointed out that Ariste, who was 20 years-old at the time, “has been languishing in prison for over 12 years on the basis of a confession that should have never been admitted in evidence against him”.
Detectives went to Ariste’s home looking for his brother in connection with the crime, but he was not home. Instead, they took Ariste into custody where, on paper, he waived his right to an attorney and signed a confession.
Although Ariste is said to have arrived at the station in a “fit” and “well” state, a prison doctor recorded that he had a temporal abrasion, handcuff abrasions, and bruised buttocks among other injuries. He claimed that police officers attempted to suffocate him and they beat the confession out of him. His statement was not recorded, and he had no legal representation at the police station nor his trial two years later.
What Privy Council Justices found alarming was that the judge in Nassau gave no reason for deciding why Ariste’s confession was admissible, and no evidence was presented during the trial linking Ariste. who had no prior convictions, to the robbery in question or any other robbery.
Ariste’s case was taken up by the Death Penalty Project, which is a group of lawyers from Simons Muirhead Burton LLP. a London-based law firm. Appellant Attorneys included: Paul Bowen, KC; Emma Mockford; Jagoda Kilmowicz; and Bahamian Krysta A Mason-Smith.
Mason Smith is a Senior Associate at Murrio Ducille & Co, attorneys-at-law, Parliament Street. She is the most senior counsel at Ducille & Co, having played an integral role in the expansion and development of the firm. She is fully responsible for the ongoings of the practice when her Principal, Murrio Ducille, KC, is sitting elsewhere or is out of Jurisdiction.
With Mason-Smith managing the day-to-day affairs of the firm, Ducille has been able to broaden his reach. When not practicing law in The Bahamas, Ducille serves as a Justice of the Court of Appeal in Belize – a position he has held since 2015. This court sits three times a year in March, June and October.
Mason-Smith also serves as a Crown Brief Advocate, which is akin to a public defender, where she assists the government in providing legal services to those unable to retain private counsel. She is on the Board of the Office of the Public Defender and also took up the position of Secretary of the Criminal Bar Association, which is under the umbrella of the Bahamas Bar Association.
She is also a Youth Ambassador to the International Organization IBWPPI, and has served as past Chairman of the Willie Mae Pratt Centre Visiting Committee, which is a Committee responsible for leading and directing social outreach and transformation for the young female residents of that institution.
“We celebrate her as a leading attorney in this nation,” said her mother, Marisa Mason-Smith.
“She is making a difference nationally and internationally with legal prowess, integrity, passion and commitment to her profession. We pray that she continues to experience the goodness of the Lord by applying wisdom, knowledge, direction, and by walking in faith. Practicing law at the Privy Council level in London is a demonstration of preparation meeting opportunity. Not many young attorneys have had the privilege of adding such a feat to their portfolio. We are very proud of her.”
The presiding Privy Council Justices in Ariste’s case were Lord Lloyd-Jones; Lord Kitchin; Lord Hamblen; Lord Leggatt and Lord Burrows. The Respondent was attorney Rowan Pennington-Benton, instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, London.
Source: Felicity Darville