Court of Appeal must follow Privy Council rulings on capital punishment – Lawyer
Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer
Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels says while public outrage is understandable, Jamaica’s Court of Appeal is duty-bound to uphold or dismiss death sentences in accordance with the country’s highest appeals court, the Privy Council.
The lawyer’s comments follow news that a man who was sentenced to hang for the 2007 murder of Assistant Commissioner of Police Gilbert Kameka won his appeal against his death sentence.
However, following the ruling, some Jamaicans have expressed shock at the decision, arguing that the initial decision by a lower court to sentence Massinissa Adams to hang was appropriate.
Samuels says the Court of Appeal is only following the guidelines set out by the Privy Council on how to approach capital punishment cases.
He points to the 2009 Privy Council ruling in the Trimmingham case from St Vincent and the Grenadines which speaks to the application of the death penalty.
The London-based court said capital punishment should be imposed only in cases which, on the facts of the offence, are the most extreme and exceptional, the worst of the worst, or the rarest of the rare.
The Jamaican Appeal Court pointed out that although the murder of the assistant commissioner, was a planned, cold-blooded killing, it could not be regarded as falling within the most extreme or exceptional cases.
Samuels says even with the legitimate concerns of Jamaica’s high crime rate, the guidelines must be followed.
The lawyer says even if Jamaica cut ties with the Privy Council and establishes the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court, the rulings would still be persuasive.
He argues that it would be unlikely that the CCJ would attempt to disturb a body of law that has settled on a matter such as capital punishment.
Justices Hazel Harris, Hillary Phillips and Patrick Brooks held that the judge failed to consider the very important factor as to whether there was any reasonable prospect in reforming the convicted man.
The convict has now been sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve 35 years before he can be eligible for parole.
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