St. Kitts Hangs Convicted Murderer

Started by Jeff1857, December 20, 2008, 03:08:09 AM

previous topic - next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Go Down


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - One Caribbean nation wants to execute criminals who use weapons, even if they haven't killed anyone. Another is seeking the death penalty for murderous pirates. And a third, St. Kitts and Nevis, staged its first hanging in a decade Friday.

A crime wave is fueling a thirst for executions across the English-speaking Caribbean, prompting concern among human rights groups who say better policing on the islands would do more to deter criminals.

A bell tolled Friday from inside Her Majesty's Prison on the island of St. Kitts to signal the hanging of Charles Elroy Laplace, condemned in 2006 for killing his wife in a knife attack. A small crowd held a vigil outside the brick prison walls in the capital, Basseterre.

"We have to be certain that there is a deterrent among our people in taking another man's life," Prime Minister Denzil Douglas said as he announced the hanging to the National Assembly.

It was the first execution in the region outside Cuba since the Bahamas hanged a convicted killer in 2000.

But more than 90 prisoners are on death row in the region, including eight more in St. Kitts. Initiatives to ease convicts' path to the gallows have been welcomed by people around the Caribbean, where polls consistently show strong support for capital punishment.

Antigua and Barbuda has proposed expanding the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty to include any that involve weapons and lead to serious injury or death.

In Guyana, which is struggling to protect small fishing boats from piracy, the parliament has approved legislation to execute anybody who commits murder during a pirate attack.

Several countries are exploring changes to their constitutions to work around restrictions imposed by the London-based Privy Council, the highest court of review for many former British colonies. The court says sentences must be commuted to life in prison if the condemned are not executed within five years -- a window some consider unreasonably short to resolve appeals.

An appeal that was filed in a St. Kitts court on Laplace's behalf was dismissed in October because his lawyers missed a deadline, Douglas said.

In Jamaica, which has not executed a prisoner in 20 years, a Senate vote Friday cleared the way for an amendment to bypass the Privy Council's rulings. The lower house gave its approval last month for the measure to make executions easier.

Jamaica, an island of 3 million people, has been hit the hardest with more than 1,240 killings reported this year. Chicago, a city of about 2.8 million, reported 443 homicides in 2007.

But Nancy Anderson, a lawyer with the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights, said capital punishment will not deter crime because fewer than a third of the island's homicides ever result in convictions.

"Nobody's thinking far down the line whether they'll be executed," she said. "We need a better police force, more investigative skills, better technology."

Brian Evans, an anti-capital punishment activist with Amnesty International USA, said the Caribbean is breaking from a trend in which two-thirds of nations have now abolished capital punishment or not used it in 10 years. He said it is an understandable response to high-crime rates but it "is not an effective response."

But some islanders see it as a solution.

In St. Kitts and Nevis, a twin-island federation of nearly 40,000 people that has seen its murder rate climb to 23 this year from 17 in 2007, Douglas pledged earlier this month to punish killers to the full extent of the law.

"I want an end to this madness that is taking place in this beloved country," he said in a national radio address.

Rising crime also plagues the Caribbean's French and British territories, but capital punishment is a political nonstarter for these islands because laws would need rewriting in the abolitionist strongholds of London and Paris. The Netherlands and its Caribbean territories also outlawed capital punishment.

Capital punishment has been abolished for decades in the Spanish-speaking, predominantly Roman Catholic Dominican Republic. Religious and cultural opposition to the death penalty also holds sway in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where jurors often reject federal prosecutors' requests for capital punishment.

(Source: AP)


Wow.  I'm impressed.  This is the first hanging under HM Queen Elizabeth II since 2000.  I guess the Privy Council didn't have the balls to intervene...

I'm now feeling oddly patriotic to the Crown!

JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.


I realise that Laplace was executed ten months ago, but I'm bumping this thread to post the following article.  If it's true, they certainly have an "interesting" albeit rather cruel way of conducting executions in St Kitts.  The article was clearly written by an anti, but read all of the comments left by readers: there is near unanimous support for Laplace's execution.


Return of the noose: St Kitts has just hanged its first man for a decade and believes it is the only way to beat violent crime
By David Jones
Last updated at 8:49 AM on 12th January 2009

They came for the condemned man on the stroke of midnight. But for Charles Elroy Laplace there was no slap-up last supper of the type served on Death Row in America, nor the company of a reassuring pastor.

Instead, he was bound hand and foot and cast on to a grubby mattress in the corner of his fetid cell, then left for eight hours to contemplate his impending fate.

Paralysed and rendered incontinent with fear, Laplace lay there all night, begging the Lord for mercy and pleading for someone to call his mother or his lawyer - anyone who might save him at the last.

Left: Part-time hangman Simeon Govia was paid £1,800 to despatch Charles Elroy Laplace (right) on the ancient wooden gallows

But his wretched entreaties were drowned out by the singing of his prison guards, who saw fit to celebrate his coming execution with a rum-fuelled 'gallows party' that lasted long into the small hours.

It was not until 8am the following morning that Laplace's torment was finally brought to an end.

As the death knell tolled in Her Majesty's Prison, Basseterre, capital of the Caribbean islands of St Kitts & Nevis, and a crowd gathered outside the forbidding crimson gates, he was frogmarched ten paces to an ancient wooden gallows inside the jail.

Built for multiple hangings, the gibbet had three separate nooses and Laplace's head was covered with a white hood and placed in one of them.

The 40-year-old bakery van driver just had time to wish his six children a happy life and mutter his forgiveness for the trial judge who had sentenced him to death, before the lever was thrust forward and the boards fell away beneath him.

Soon news of his execution spread through the island and his murdered wife's family raised a triumphal flag - then the rum began to flow again.

This probably sounds like some gruesome scene from the West Indies of bygone days, when ruthless white sugar plantation bosses routinely lynched their troublesome black serfs on these shores, often in public to set an example.

Yet although the gallows where Laplace was dispatched were, indeed, built in the mid-19th century, in fact this most unmerciful execution took place just three weeks ago.

The macabre ritual was described to me this week, with shockingly dispassionate candour, by the hangman who dispatched Laplace, a local character named Simeon Govia.

Unshaven and gaunt, Mr Govia, aged 47, is no master executioner in the Albert Pierrepoint mode, of that we can be sure.

Paradise lost: There were 23 murders in St Kitts last year which has a population of just 46,000

In fact, he admits that he was hired because he has family ties to a senior prison official, performed his first execution after a five-minute 'lesson' from an officer, and had no idea what would happen until his victim fell.

Small wonder, for he usually makes his living by massaging British female tourists on the beaches of this supposedly idyllic volcanic outcrop (and bedding them where possible, he told me with a gap-toothed grin).

He claims he volunteered for the job of St Kitts official hangman - a role that has been vacant for ten years since the last execution was carried out here - because he believes passionately in 'an eye for an eye'.

However, as he charges just £30 for providing his sensual rub-downs and the government offered him a fee of £1,800 to dispatch Laplace, perhaps that was not the only reason why this roving gigolo was so keen to make a temporary career switch.

'That guy went as good as gold, man,' Mr Govia told me.

'He didn't whimper or holler. He was very brave and knew he had to go through with it. He didn't suffer, either. I pushed the lever and he was gone in an instant.'

Had he suffered nightmares the night before he did the deed?

'No man. The guards put me in a room and gave me a tot of whisky and nice food, and I slept sound. There are eight more guys on Death Row, and when they want me to hang the next one I'll be more than ready to oblige.'

That day will surely come very soon. For despite recent U.S. research suggesting that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to murder, and a worldwide trend towards its abolition, senior politicians in St Kitts & Nevis are convinced it is the only effective answer to the violent crime epidemic sweeping the island.

A generation ago, murders were a rarity here. Now this tiny Commonwealth country - Britain's first colony in the Caribbean - is in the grip of a terrifying gang war which has made it, statistically, the murder capital of the world, with a record 23 killings last year among a population of just 46,000.

It is highly unlikely that Prime Minister Denzil Douglas will mention this unwanted distinction this morning when he makes a speech at the airport to welcome the first holidaymakers off the inaugural British Airways flight direct to St Kitts.

However, with the sugar industry having recently collapsed and the pair of islands - which measure just 23 miles long by five miles wide - now totally dependent on tourism, Mr Douglas is acutely aware that the murder of just one foreign visitor could spell disaster for the economy.

The cane Harvest - but falling sugar prices has meant the tiny island has become more dependent on tourism

If he has any doubts as to its likely effects, he need only look to neighbouring Antigua, where empty hotel rooms and half-deserted beaches are the legacy of last summer's brutal shooting of Welsh honeymoon couple Ben and Catherine Mullany.

With the credit crunch taking a toll on winter bookings in the Caribbean, similar fears are gripping leading politicians throughout the crime-plagued West Indian archipelago.

And so, ignoring a clamour of protest led by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, they are dusting down gallows that have stood idle for decades, ready to resume hanging on a scale not seen since the most draconian days of British rule.

These former colonies are now fiercely independent nations, of course, but they have retained the British legal system, and although capital punishment for murder was finally abolished in their mother country 40 years ago, it has remained on their statute books.

Death sentences have therefore continued to be handed down for the most gruesome killings for many years - but they are often set aside by the Privy Council in London, which remains the final court of appeal for many Commonwealth countries.

For a variety of reasons, the Privy Council often rules capital punishment 'unconstitutional'.

And if defence lawyers can drag a case on for more than five years, hanging is commuted to life imprisonment on humanitarian grounds because the murderer is deemed to have suffered enough while waiting on Death Row.

Now, though, many Caribbean nations are sick of seeing their courts undermined by out-of-touch legal overlords in dusty chambers 4,000 miles away in London, and they are flexing their muscles.

Determined to deal with violent criminals in their own way, a few years ago they set up their own appeal court - the Caribbean Court of Justice - based in Trinidad.

The idea is that this will eventually replace the Privy Council as the islands' court of last resort, thus severing their last legal ties with Britain.

Jamaica - another Caribbean idyll - has decided to keep capital punishment on its statute books because of its high murder rate

But the transitional process is dragging on interminably and in recent weeks, the pressure for draconian justice, Caribbean style, has been rapidly intensifying.

In Jamaica, whose population is barely bigger than that of Birmingham, but which last year suffered some 1,300 murders - twice as many as in the whole of Britain - the Senate has just voted to keep hanging on the statute books.

No one has been hanged there since 1988 but legal experts believe the drugs-related killing spree has reached such a critical point that it is sure to be resumed soon.

Meanwhile, on many smaller islands to which the violence is spreading like a fast-growing tumour, the clamour to bring back the noose grows louder by the day.

In St Vincent, for example, people are demanding the swift execution of Shorn Samuel, 35.

He was sentenced to hang a few weeks ago for lassoing a young woman as she waited at a bus stop, and beheading her with a cutlass, simply because she rejected his advances.

They are equally eager to string up Patrick Lovelace who was convicted of the abduction of 11-year-old Lokeisha Nanton.

He raped the little girl, then hanged her from a mango tree. (His conviction was overturned on a technicality, and his retrial begins on Tuesday).

'There is an overwhelming call here for capital punishment to be resumed,' St Vincent journalist Kirby Jackson says.

'There's a sense of frustration that we are bound by the Privy Council, which is seen as part of an outdated culture.

'Some people don't like hanging because of its historic connotations. They refer back to the Fifties and Sixties in the southern USA, when a lot of black people were wrongly hanged. But as a society we have moved on. We know what is right or wrong in the Caribbean and we are capable of deciding that for ourselves.'

'We must do something to stop the killing'

It is a sentiment I heard echoed in St Kitts repeatedly this week. Hearing about the subject I was researching, people have approached me in the streets to argue passionately for the right to hang criminals without foreign interference.

On his weekly radio phone-in show, Prime Minister Douglas insisted that he took 'no comfort' in the recent hanging of Laplace - whose lawyers apparently missed the deadline for an appeal to the Privy Council 'by mistake'.

It was simply a matter of allowing the law to take its course, he said solemnly. With an election looming, however, and the premier hoping to win a historic fourth term in office, he knows which way the wind is blowing.

Even the island's most senior criminal defence lawyer, Methodist pastor Reginald James, told me he would no longer represent convicted murderers after completing his current caseload, which includes an appeal for a pastor's son alleged to have murdered his sister-in-law.

'We have never had so many killings on this island and we must do something to stop it,' lamented the 68-year-old barrister, adding that as a Christian and patriot, his conscience no longer allowed him to fight to spare murderers from the gallows.

Disgorged from the giant cruiseships which dock in Basseterre's scenic harbour for a few hours' shopping and sightseeing, day visitors may still believe they really have landed in 'paradise'.

If they were rash enough to venture a few hundred yards up the hill, to marijuana-scented ghettoes like that around Westbourne Street, however, they would glimpse a very different place.

Here, gangs who pathetically model themselves on the Crips and Bloods of Southside Los Angeles - even wearing their blue and red colours - are embroiled in a turf war the viciousness of which makes inner-city Britain seem positively tranquil.

'Hanging won't stop nothing. You check?' one man who called himself Bugie told me indolently.

'It'll just make people do their killing cleaner so they don't get caught.'

'My son should not have died'

Business owners are so fearful of these characters that they close shops and offices early to leave for home before the sun sets.

'It's not just that there's crime here - it is the fact it's all so vindictive,' says Lucille Rawlins, a 52-year-old Birmingham woman whose parents emigrated to Britain from St Kitts in the Fifties, and who came to live here four years ago.

Mrs Rawlins was hoping for a tranquil life here only to be brutally mugged.

She and her Kittitian husband are now planning to return to the comparative safety of the West Midlands.

On Wednesday another British expat, in his 60s, also required hospital treatment after being beaten by three youths during a robbery at his home in beautiful Frigate Bay.

In desperation the government have just hired a new 'crimebuster', recently retired FBI chief Mark Mershon, who achieved considerable success in fighting the gangs in Oakland, California.

In a refrain familiar to many in Britain, Mr Mershon largely attributes the moral degeneration of St Kitts to the breakdown of family life and the rise in the number of single mothers.

He has come armed with an impressive action plan and bravely promises a reduction in the murder rate this year.

Until he gets results, however, Kittitians will pin their faith on the perceived deterrent effect of the rope.

Charles Laplace was no gangster - if we believe his mother, Naomi Williams.

He was a 'quiet home-boy' turned temporarily insane by his wife Dian's infidelity.

'My son should not have died,' she told me, weeping.

'They hanged him out of spite. When I heard they were going to hang him I walked to the Governor General's house and begged him to spare my son but he just said he could do nothing. There were all those other criminals. Why did they have to pick on him?'

The answer, though no one will admit as much, is that the government felt the need to make a public statement of intent, and his was the easiest case.

I am assured by well-placed officials that it won't be the last.

Who, then, will be next to mount the gallows in HMP Basseterre? In the rum houses this week, various names were being touted, including Warrington Phillip, aged 40 - once a local cricket hero who almost made the West Indies test team. He was recently convicted of slashing the throat of his wife, Shermel.

According to well-informed sources, the most likely candidate for the gallows is Romeo 'Buncum' Cannonier, a fearsome criminal for whom many islanders believe hanging to be far too lenient.

In 2004, the hulking 'Buncum' shot dead a police officer who had the temerity to walk through his 'manor' at the lonely northern end of St Kitts.

He was duly arrested but from his prison cell he ordered a 'hit' on the informant whose evidence placed him behind bars.

However, locals maintain that he evaded conviction for his most nauseating crime.

He is said to have abducted a young mother and held her as his sex slave in a disused house for days before strangling her. He reputedly buried her two-year-old daughter alive.

The investigation was appallingly mishandled - which is not uncommon here - and so on that occasion, Cannonier, who is in his mid-30s and whose father was hanged for some half-remembered murder, swaggered to freedom.

The authorities are said to be determined that he won't cheat justice a second time.

Whether his hanging - if it takes places - will stem the bloody tide of murders in paradise remains to be seen, though given that three people were shot just a day after the authorities made an example of Charles Laplace, it seems unlikely.

In the final analysis, perhaps the only real winner will be Simeon Govia, the gigolo hangman.

In the Caribbean islands the price of life may be all too cheap these days - but £1,800 a go is still mighty good money.


I just googled the name of the hangman, Simeon Govia, and found this on the website of the St Kitts and Nevis Police Force:

"Simeon Govia of Christ Church was arrested and charged for wounding with intent. Offence was committed on May 5th 2009."

I can't imagine that there is more than one Simeon Govia on an island of 43,000 people, which means that Govia, if subsequently convicted of wounding with intent, will now have a criminal record.  I would imagine that means that he has lost his job as a hangman because the government would not allow a criminal to conduct executions, so there is now a job vacancy!

Pack your bags, Bruce, because we're going on holiday!  Don't forget to bring your Desert Eagle, as it sounds like we'll need some good firepower to hand.

JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.


UN Human Rights group told St. Kitts and Nevis will retain the death penalty

Tuesday, 08 February 2011 01:38
Khareem Cabey

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS - The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has told the Tenth Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, a new mechanism of the Human Right Council that it will retain the death penalty for the offences of murder.

The Federation's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Delano Bart, Q.C., acknowledged that although the issue is controversial it will continue to be so.

"However, having considered the matter, the Government has decided to retain it as one of the sentences available to the Court that it can use within its discretion. We accept, from the outset that there may be some evidence that it is not necessarily a deterrent but within the context of our present society and the increasing crime rate, the Government would have great difficulty in justifying to its citizenry its decision to deprive the Court of this optional punishment." Mr. Bart said in presenting the national report at the Palais des
Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said that the jurisprudence surrounding the death penalty has been highly developed and refined by the Courts to the extent that the Courts themselves will not pass such a sentence except in the most heinous of crimes which have been further refined to being "the worst of the worst."

He said that although the death penalty remains as a punitive measure on the books, the evidence is clear that it is not frequently carried out.

"In the last thirty years there have only been three instances when the death penalty has been carried out. During that period of time, others have been sentenced to death but those sentences have either been commuted by the Court or by the Mercy Committee - a feature of the Constitution which intervenes when justice ends and mercy begins.

"In cases where it has been implemented, the legal procedure as set out in the

Constitution has been duly followed. Where an accused is found guilty of a crime punishable by death, the penalty of death is no longer mandatory. There is a compulsory hearing dedicated solely to the question of sentence. This therefore means that the judge has before him an array of options in respect of sentence. The law requires that a social inquiry report along with a psychiatric report and any other report that the defence deems necessary be submitted to the Court for such a hearing," Mr. Bart submitted.

He further reported that the convicted person is allowed to call witnesses to speak on his behalf and his Counsel is at liberty to try and persuade the Court against the imposition of the death penalty. If he is so sentenced he still has the right to appeal against that sentence to the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean and ultimately to the Appellate Division of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

"If the convicted person fails to have his sentence commuted he can petition the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which was created by Section 67 of the Constitution. In the earlier life of the Committee there was no obligation for the Committee to hear a matter if it were not petitioned. However the law has since developed where, if the convicted person has not petitioned the Committee, the Committee is obliged to consider the matter and give him an opportunity to make representation before it as to why the sentence of death should not be carried out," said the Federation's chief diplomat at the United Nations.

He said although this is the due process of law, the Government is amenable to open consultation with its citizenry on various issues including this one.

The report was compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accompanying Ambassador Bart were Legal Advisor in the Ministry of National Security, Dr. Dennis Merchant; Ms. Karen Hughes, Parliamentary Counsel in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs and Ms Kaye Bass, Senior Foreign Service Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.







Posted: Thursday 3 November, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Will the five men on Death Row be executed?

By: Stanford Conway,    

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - WHILE the Ninth World and European Day Against The Death Penalty was being celebrated on Monday, October 10, five inmates on Death Row at Her Majesty's Prison in St. Kitts were still awaiting announcement of the day when they would be executed.

The five condemned men are Everson 'Blee' Mitcham, Romeo 'Buncome' Cannonier, Ruedeney 'Denny' Williams, Sheldon 'Hatcher' Isaac and Louis 'Tooloo' Gardener.

Mitcham was sentenced to death by Justice Davidson Baptiste on June 26, 2001 for the February 3, 2001 murder of Vernal Nisbett, while his co-accused, Vincent Fahie and Patrice Matthew, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

According to the facts presented in court, on the day in question, Mitcham, Fahie and Matthew were about to rob Arlene Fleming, who was at the time vending barbecue chicken at the junction of Marshall Alley and Cayon Street, when Nisbett attempted to stop them but was fired upon and killed in the process.

An appeal was filed in 2004 by defence counsel Dr. Henry Bowne, who called for the dropping of the murder charges and the consideration of manslaughter.

However, Justice Baptiste upheld the sentences.

Appeals were also made to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and the Privy Council in London, which effectively stayed his execution that was scheduled for June 19, 2004; but both attempts to have the High Court's decision overruled were upheld.

Cannonier is facing two death sentences - one for the July 25, 2004 murder of Police Constable Delvin Nisbett for which he was convicted on October 23, 2007, and the other for the March 21, 2005 shooting-death of Gavin 'Magilla' Gilbert.

Nisbett was gunned down in cold blood while traversing a stretch of road between Parsons Village and Dieppe Bay en route to his girlfriend's home.

According to evidence presented during the case, Cannonier confessed to his then girlfriend, Makenia Lucas, that he had committed the crime.

Other evidence showed that after Cannonier was arrested for the offence and remanded to prison, he had sent instructions to the 'outside' concerning the whereabouts of the gun used in the murder and also instructions on what should be done with it when retrieved.

After his conviction, Cannonier appeared before the Justices of Appeal requesting that the decision and sentence imposed by the High Court of Justice be overturned. But the Justices of Appeal ruled that his conviction of Nisbett's murder and the death sentence be sustained.

They had however imposed a stay of execution which expired on December 1, 2008.
In the killing of Gilbert, Cannonier was sentenced to death along with Gardener, Williams and Isaac by Justice Alfred Redhead on July 15, 2008.

The court was told that between 9:50 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on March 21, 2005, Gilbert was gunned down a short distance from his Saddlers Village home.

According to evidence presented, the four men had played unique roles in Gilbert's orchestrated death. Also, in accordance with the evidence, Cannonier had masterminded the plan, Williams was the transporter and whistle blower while Isaac and Gardner were the executioners.

The plan was birthed, as evidence suggested, because Gilbert was a key witness in the case of the murder of Constable Nisbett.

It was reported that Cannonier was behind bars when the incident occurred but other evidence presented indicated that he communicated his plan to Gardener through Lionel Warner, whom Sir Richard Cheltenham described as "the messenger of death".

Evidence also suggested that Isaac was present when the message was communicated and he volunteered his services to commit the reprehensible act.

In the case of Mitcham, 10 years have passed since he was sentenced to death, while four years have passed since Cannonier was sentenced to death for the killing of Constable Nisbett, and he, along with Gardener, Williams and Isaac have been in Death Row for more than three years for the killing of Gilbert.

However, will these men be taken to the gallows?

At this time, Mitcham's death sentence can be commuted to life imprisonment, and by October 22, 2012, Cannonier can also be fortunate for his to be commuted for the first death sentence. And while Cannonier, Gardener, Williams and Isaac are awaiting their dates of appeal to the Privy Council, the foursome can also have their sentence commuted to life imprisonment after July 13, 2013.

An explanation for these assumptions is listed below.

At trials, cases are won or lost based on evidence presented and arguments proffered by prosecutors and defence counsels. And the sentencing of a convicted individual is not automatic; it is dependent on the discretion of the trial officer or, in some cases, the precedent, which is termed the rule of law established for the first time by a court for a particular type of case and thereafter referred to in deciding similar cases.

Addressing the issue of death penalty in the House of Assembly on Thursday 29, September 2011, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, said, "The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and the Privy Council have driven a 'Horse and Chariot' through our pre-1993 understanding of what the constitution and the law was about, thus making it practically impossible to hang anybody, unless in the 'worst of the worst' or 'rarest of the rare' cases of murder."

Dr. Gonsalves, a lawyer by profession, was referring to the Privy Council's ruling in the Pratt and Morgan Case in Jamaica, which states that if someone is not hanged within five years of the date of sentencing, the death penalty can no longer be carried out on that person.

He also made reference to the case of Daniel 'Compay' Dick Trimmingham, in which the Privy Council ruled it was not the 'worst of the worst' and commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

According to The Vincentian, the national newspaper of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dick Trimmingham was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 68-year-old Carriere livestock farmer Albert 'Bertie' Browne, who was disemboweled and beheaded in the Carriere mountains some years ago. Browne's body was dug up from a shallow grave about 300 feet from where his head was unearthed.

"So the death penalty in a nutshell is formally on the books, but for it to be applied practically, it can only be applied as judges have interpreted the constitution. Not only in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but the constitutions of St Lucia, Nevis, Belize, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the same position has been held", The Vincentian quoted Dr. Gonsalves as saying.

"We all understood that the death penalty was mandatory for murder, but the law courts have changed that by their interpretation of the constitution," the Prime Minister added.

Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan had committed a murder on October 6, 1977 and have been held in custody ever since. On January 15, 1979 they were convicted and sentenced to death.  Since that date, they have been in prison in that part of Saint Catherine's prison set aside to hold prisoners under sentence of death and commonly known as death row.

On three occasions the death warrant was read to them and they have been removed to the condemned cells immediately adjacent to the gallows. The last occasion was in February 1991 for execution on March 7 that same year, but a stay was granted on March 6 consequent upon the commencement of these proceedings.
According to Lord Griffiths, the statement of these bare facts is sufficient to bring home to the mind of any person of normal sensitivity and compassion the agony of mind that these men must have suffered as they have alternated between hope and despair in the 14 years that they have been in prison facing the gallows.

Lord Griffiths also stated that it was unnecessary to refer to the evidence describing the restrictive conditions of imprisonment arid the emotional and psychological impact of this experience, for it only reveals that which it is to be expected.

It was further argued at the time of appeal to the Privy Council that these men were not alone in their suffering for there are now 23 prisoners in death row who have been awaiting execution for more than 10 years and 82 prisoners who have been awaiting execution for more than five years. It is against this disturbing background that their Lordships must now determine this constitutional appeal and must in particular re-examine the correctness of the majority decision in Riley v. Attorney-General of Jamaica [1933] 1 A.C. 719.

In an effort not to violate the Privy Council decision [precedent], Attorney-at-law Reginald W. James, in a correspondence to the Federation's Attorney-General dated September 25, 2007 and headlined 'The resumption of capital Punishment on condemned persons in St. Kitts and Nevis', suggested that an amendment be made to the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis.

He suggested that an amendment should be made to Section 4(1) of the Constitution with a new proviso.

Quoting Section 4(1), James said, "A person shall not be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a Court in respect of a criminal offence of Treason or Murder under the Law of which he has been convicted."
He requested that the Attorney-General direct the Legal Draftsman to remove the period and insert a colon with the following Proviso, or words to the effect: "Provided that if the sentence of death which was pronounced by the Court has not been committed to life by the Governor-General, such a sentence of death shall be carried out at anytime, notwithstanding any delay whatsoever in carrying out the said sentence of death."

The veteran Attorney-at-Law added that if this were to succeed in a referendum and the constitutional amendment to Section 4(1) is amended, especially due to the increase of murders, then the Pratt and Morgan decision would be no more a fetter on the government's resumption of capital punishment in the Federation.

The last person to have been executed in the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis was Charles Elroy Laplace on December 19, 2008, and this act had evoked worldwide outcry of the death penalty being a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment and is ineffective in the fight against crime.


    In a press release, human rights activist group Amnesty International stated that the organisation strongly objected to the hanging of Laplace and described it as a "shameless act".

The release read: "Amnesty International considers the execution of Charles Elroy Laplace carried out in St. Kitts and Nevis on Friday 19th December as a shameless human rights development for the country after 10 years of moratorium.
"The world is turning away from the use of death penalty. Before last Friday's execution, since 2003, the United States has been the only country in the Americas to carry out executions, even in the USA there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of executions in recent years. One hundred and thirty seven countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice and only 24 nations carried out executions in 2007. Huge swathes of the world are now free from executions."

And in celebration of the Ninth World Day Against The Death Penalty on October 10, 2011, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, Alain Juppé said that the death penalty is not justice, but rather bears witness to the failure of justice.

"It serves no useful purpose in combating criminality. The loss of life that it induces is irreparable and no legal system is safe from the risk of an error of justice," he added.

Juppé noted that it has been 30 years since France had abolished the death penalty and, since then, 139 countries have adopted an abolitionist legal position or a de facto moratorium, adding that the majority of United Nations member states have discarded this form of punishment and further progress continues to be made.

"To me," he opined, "this is evidence of veritable awareness on a world-wide scale, and reaffirmation of the universal nature of Human Rights. But I cannot lose sight of the fact, despite the progress achieved, that the struggle for universal abolition must be continued on all the continents of the world."

Juppé applauded the determined efforts of the defenders of Human Rights and the NGOs, the involvement, which he stressed, is essential in the combat in which "we are together engaged".

Should these men be made to pay through execution for the crimes which the various courts have found them guilty, or should their death sentences be commuted to life imprisonment?

Photo : CONDEMNED MEN: Romeo 'Buncome' Cannonier (Left), Louis 'Tooloo' Gardener (Right) and Ruedeney 'Denny' Williams (Center) >:(









Convicted Murderer Faces Death Penalty at Sentencing

By Teshell Samuel

Convicted murderer, Alpha Duporte will return to the Basseterre High Court on January 17 where he could be sentenced to death for his crime.

Duporte, who was convicted during the September 2011 Assizes, is expected to be sentenced for the July, 2009 shooting death of 24-year-old Dexter Marsham of Godwin Ghaut.

He will be among those who will appear before the Court when the 2012 January Criminal Assizes gets under way next week.

Aside from being found guilty of murder, Duporte was also convicted of two counts of attempted murder during the 2011 September Criminal Assizes. A mother and son from the area received non-fatal gunshot wounds during the same onslaught on July 18, 2009.






Go Up