Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Hunger over murder

Published:Monday | December 22, 2014 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle
FILE Shabadine Peart, speaks with The Gleaner after his release from prison in 2012.

A MAN who was falsely accused of murder and freed in 2012 after spending 12 years in prison is desperately seeking employment or someone to help him to buy food items to sell, but the only offers he has been getting are crime-related.

"Last week, I saw a youth who I know and he showed me his gun and said, 'Why are you on the street suffering? Come, let us go do some robbery," recounted 33-year-old Shabadine Joseph Peart.

But Peart said he told the young man that he went to prison as an innocent youth and he did not want to go back.

"All I want is a job to do anything, even sweep the street, work on a garbage truck, or if a good Samaritan could give me even $10,000 so I could buy some fruits and juice to sell so I can be independent," he told The Gleaner.

"When employers hear I have been to prison, they don't even want to hear what had happened. They just turn me away not even realising that there are some innocent people who are in prison."

He said: "The temptations I face living on the streets are great, because just last month a man was offering me $150,000 to kill a man, and I told him I prefer to go hungry rather than to commit a grave sin like that."

He pointed out that he went to Catholic schools in St Andrew, so his religious background and his fear of God could never let him kill someone or rob or steal from anyone.

"I prefer to go hungry than to do those things," Peart said amid tears.

Peart, who sleeps at night on cardboard on sidewalks either in Half-Way Tree or Cross Roads, said the justice system has failed him.

His only possessions are the clothes he was wearing and two shirts that he carries in a plastic bag. He said there are times when people throw stones or water on him while he is sleeping. Peart told The Gleaner that he goes hungry many days, adding that the situation is so bad he feels like committing suicide.

"Can you imagine being in prison from you are 18 in 1999 until 2011 when a judge grants you bail in the sum of $300,000 with one or two sureties?"

He said he was a well-mannered child, and his mother and father died while he was in prison because they were broken-hearted because he was falsely accused and convicted of murder. When he was arrested in 1999, he was employed to Lamasa and said he was assigned duties as a porter at the Kingston Public Hospital.

"I could also fix refrigerators as I learnt that trade after I left school," he explained.

Peart said the authorities should ensure that prisoners who are released or freed after a long time in prison are sent to a trade centre where they can earn a living or given some funds so they can do projects to help themselves.

One of Peart's goals is to become a motivational speaker so he can encourage young people not to get involved in crime because "life in prison is very rough".

He spoke of injustices meted out to him from the time he was arrested and charged in May 1999 for the murder of Everton Parchment, a security guard. He said he was beaten by the police and forced to sign a statement.

Peart is displeased because although he was taken into custody on the same day of the murder, the police did not swab his hands or had a lawyer or justice of the peace present when they were questioning him, which he described as a breach of his rights. He said he was talking with his girlfriend one night when they heard about the fatal shooting on Curphey Road, Kingston, and he and other people went to look, and it was after that he was accused of the murder. "My case was cooked up by the police," he said.

Peart was convicted of Parchment's murder in 2000 and sentenced to hang. He appealed, and in 2003 the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. Peart's death sentence was set aside in 2004 based on the United Kingdom Privy Council's landmark ruling in the Jamaican case of Lambert Watson that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional. He appealed to the Privy Council, which in 2006 quashed his conviction and remitted the case to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that there should be a retrial. The Privy Council found that the Judges Rules were breached because Peart was questioned by the police after he was arrested and charged. The Privy Council said he was 18 at the time and did not have the services of a lawyer before he was questioned.

In 2010, Peart faced his second trial in the Home Circuit Court, but the jury failed to arrive at a verdict. When the case came for trial in April 2012, the director of public prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi. The court was told that the DPP was not proceeding with the case because of the unavailability of witnesses.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com