(CMR) Accused murderer Olga Smith appeared in court today seeking to have her manslaughter plea vacated at the sentencing hearing forcing her attorneys to resign from her case.
Smith accepted a plea deal in October of last year in the stabbing death of Marvin Xavier Conolly Armendarez. She pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. However, she now wishes to plead not guilty, setting back the procedures significantly.
The shocking about-turn caused her attorneys Ben Tonner QC and Prathna Bodden to inform the court they intended to come off record and would no longer be representing her. They had appeared on behalf of the defendant expecting to continue with a sentencing hearing today.
However, shortly before the session commenced Bodden informed Tonner she needed to speak with him urgently. They two left the courtroom to speak to Smith and returned shortly after informing Justice Cheryll Richards, Q.C. that they intended to remove themselves from this case in light of these latest developments.
The surprising change in plea also compounded the situation of her bail conditions with Senor Crown Counsel Nicole Petit asked for her bail to be revoked. She shared that significant discussions had taken place to reach the October plea deal and there were written bases for that.
Petit shared that in March 2020 Smith was granted bail because of what the court accepted at the time were “exceptional circumstances” including the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that Smith was pregnant with the deceased's child. The welfare of the unborn child was of “paramount importance”.
However, she had since given birth to a healthy female child and the pandemic is no longer a significant concern in the Cayman Islands.
Crown Counsel further shared that there were growing concerns about the defendant's safety from others closed to the deceased who felt that the ongoing legal wrangling was taking far too long. Apparently, both family and friends connected to the deceased and Smith expressed concerns about this.
Petit presented statements from the victim's family with highlighted relevant parts for the judge's consideration. Those were not read in open court but from the basis of what was being said, it appears that Smith's own life could very well hang in the balance.
Petite noted that that latest development was nothing but shocking and “there are concerns about her own welfare from external forces against her”
Petit, therefore, asked for bail to be revoked and Smith to be placed in custody. However, the judge acknowledged that since she is not represented she should be permitted to make an emergency application to the legal aid office first thing on Monday morning.
The prosecution also expressed concerns that Smith could be a flight risk and informed that court that:
“given her complete change in position today there is a possible view it is probable that there is a failure to surrender concern and that the defendant is now concerned about the consequences of the conclusion of the case.”
The court confirmed her bail conditions which include a surety of $10,000, passport and travel documents held by the court, a door-step condition, 24-hour curfew and residing in a residence in George Town.
Her bail was extended until Friday, March 5 so that she could obtain new legal representatives.