Opinion: In absentia

POSTED: 07/4/13 2:59 PM

Sobiesky Manuel Parrondo has the right to attend his trial that starts this morning at 9 a.m. at the Court in First Instance in Philipsburg, but chances that he will put in an appearance are zip. Parrondo is a suspect – and not more than that at the moment – in the November 10, 2012 killing of Gaston Ambroise Gumbs. He also escaped from his cell at the Philipsburg police station on June 23, together with two others that are not linked to the same crime.

We understand that Parrondo has not made contact with his attorney, probably guessing right that his counsel’s phone could be tapped after his escape, and we are not even sure whether he is still on the island. If he is gone, well, then we won’t see him again, but the trial will without any doubt continue without him.

The question remains whether it is smart to duck your trial – even when you are guilty. Parrondo will still have legal representation, but the court will take brownie points away from any argument for his no-show, certainly because of the circumstances under which this is happening. Escaping from prison is a crime in St. Maarten. It routinely carries a 1-year prison sentence.

Parrondo won’t have to worry about that if he remains on the lam, but if he ever gets caught he should know what is coming to him.

Another disadvantage of not being at your own trial is that you are unable to give your attorney instructions about what to do next. Just ask Omar Nelson, aka chucky. He escaped in 2011 from the Pointe Blanche prison and he was not there when the court sentenced him to 18 years imprisonment. Nelson let the 14-day term to appeal the verdict expire and when he was finally caught it was too late to do anything about his punishment.

Parrondo may be looking at the same scenario. If he left the island, Many might say: good riddens. On the other hand, one would want suspects of serious crimes like murder to stand trial and to take responsibility for their actions, but our criminals are not exactly champions in this field. For the relatives of the victims the apple is extra sour, even if the court convict Parrondo, because chances that he will never serve his sentence are huge.

On the upside, a no-show could inspire the court to impose a higher sentence. That would give at least some satisfaction.

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