Wed | Dec 2, 2020

Former prisoner crying for help … He claims false conviction has ruined his life

Published:Sunday | July 28, 2019 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle - Contributor
Churchill Neita
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Life has been a real struggle for 38-year-old Shabadine Peart, who spent most of his life in prison for a crime he is adamant he did not commit.

He is crying for justice because he says the State robbed him of the best years of his life and has offered no assistance to help him get back on his feet.

Peart was incarcerated when he was 18 years old and was finally freed in 2012 after the prosecution decided to discontinue a third trial against him.

“All I am seeking right now is help to make my life better because I went through a rough time in prison, and although I am free, sometimes I feel like I am still behind bars because I cannot even get a job,” he stressed.

Last week, he shared his story with The Sunday Gleaner.

“I was working as a porter at Kingston Public Hospital in 1999 when a woman who lived on the same premises that I lived reported to the police that she heard me and about four other youth planning to kill a security guard,” Peart stated.

He said he was shocked when he was arrested and charged in May 1999 for a crime he had nothing to do with, adding that he was at his girlfriend’s house when they heard that a murder took place up the road.

He has blamed the police for poor investigation, pointing out that he was arrested on the same night of the murder but his hands were not swabbed.

“I have never fired a gun and it was so frightening to me when the police accused me of shooting a security guard,” he said.

“As a youth, I had dreams of going back to school and even going to university, but since being freed in 2012, I don’t see any chance of furthering my education. I have been walking from business place to business place and even construction sites but cannot find a job and, to be truthful, many days I am hungry.”

Peart continued, “A few people at times will give me a small change but that cannot help me because I believe in working hard to maintain myself, but once people hear I was in prison, they do not want to hire me. I don’t even have a birth certificate so I can get my TRN card.”

He has made attempts to get his birth certificate but said he was informed that it was not in the system and that a special search would have to be done to locate the record, but he could not afford the fee to do so.

HUNGER AND STRESS

Peart, who lives in the Kingston 5 area, wept as he disclosed that many days he has severe headaches because of hunger and stress.

“Many youth come to me telling me to turn to crime because society is not helping me, but I don’t want to go that route. I would rather die than to be involved in crime because my mother taught me to be honest and truthful and I vow to live by those principles,” he emphasised.

“Right now, whenever I come in contact with the youth them, I encourage them to get a good education and not to get involved in crime.”

He added, “One of my dreams right now is to be a motivational speaker to help the youth in the society to see that turning to crime only destroys their lives and the lives of innocent people.”

When asked what was his greatest need at the moment, Peart responded, “ Right now, all I want is a job to get back my pride and dignity and to get rid of the stress in my life.”

He outlined that he has been to several government offices seeking help but without success.

“I am so disappointed that going to prison as an innocent youth, I cannot get any help from the Government, and that is very frustrating,” he said.

One of the happiest days in Peart’s life since he was freed was when he got baptised on February 9 at the Meadowvale Seventh-day Adventist Church in St Andrew.

He smiled as he related that the day he was going to church to be baptised, he was stopped by the police, and when they asked “what I had in my possession, I jokingly showed them my bible and said this is my weapon”.

GOOD SAMARITAN

Peart said he was grateful to Queen’s Counsel Churchill Neita, who encourages him on a regular basis not to get involved in any wrongdoing.

He stated that a Good Samaritan who heard his story gave him some money a few years ago to buy fruits to sell, which enabled him to become a fruit vendor, but he hardly makes any profit because he does not have a proper place to store the fruits.

“Can someone please give me a steady job so I can take care of myself, because I hate begging or getting handout,” Peart pleaded.

Neita, who sometimes counsels his client, considers him very courteous.

“What this young man needs is a job so he can support himself,” the attorney stated.

In 1999, Peart was charged with the murder of a security guard on Curphey Road, Kingston 5. He was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to death. He lost an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

In 2006, the United Kingdom Privy Council quashed the conviction and remitted the case to the Court of Appeal for a determination whether there should be a retrial. The Privy Council found that the Judges’ Rules were breached because Peart, who was only 18 when he was arrested and charged, did not have the services of an attorney-at-law when the police questioned him.

A retrial took place in 2010, and the jury failed to arrive at a verdict. When the case came up for a third trial in 2012, the prosecution entered a nolle prosequi and Peart was freed.

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