Second Chance - Judge orders release of man for good behaviour after serving 20 years
A Supreme Court judge has ordered the immediate and unconditional release of a man who has spent more than two decades in prison after he was convicted for fatally stabbing another man during a robbery.
Elvis Thomas, who was 17 years old when he committed the crime, was expected to be released from the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre late yesterday after Justice Martin Gayle granted an application by his attorneys.
"Elvis Thomas is to be released unconditionally, forthwith. All the [social enquiry and community] reports speak favourably of him," said Gayle as he handed down his decision in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions did not oppose the application.
Thomas was not in court when Gayle restored his freedom, but according to his lead attorney, Zandra-Gay Francis, the now 42-year-old has converted to Christianity, accepted responsibility for his participation in a robbery that resulted in death, and has been a model inmate.
"Based on his social history, he didn't have much of a father figure. In looking for a father figure, he found the wrong company," Francis told The Gleaner.
"He has sought to put his life in a position where he can seek to elevate others and to elevate himself. It won't compensate ... but he seems like someone who should get the opportunity to have a second chance," she added.
But according to prosecutors, the then 17-year-old held on to Delroy Cranston as two of his cronies stabbed him repeatedly during a robbery in Spur Tree, Manchester, in 1994. Cranston's body was found in bushes. Thomas later boasted to a woman that he and his friends killed Cranston, and in 1996 he was convicted of murder. He was ordered held at Her Majesty's pleasure because he was minor at the time the offence was committed.
In 2010, Supreme Court judge Glen Brown refused his request for release on the grounds that he had served 14 years in prison. In denying the application, Justice Brown noted that the range for any offender who commits a murder in furtherance of robbery is a minimum of 20 years before being eligible for parole.
Thomas' attorney said that, while in custody, he has obtained Caribbean Examinations Council passes in English, mathematics and information technology and has taught other inmates at the Spanish Town-based prison.