Judgment has been reserved in an appeal by death row inmate Jamar Dwayne Bynoe to his 2016 conviction for murdering six women in the September 3, 2010 Campus Trendz fire.
Bynoe, of Headley’s Land, Bank Hall, St Michael was found guilty by a jury of six counts of murder following the deaths of Shanna Griffith, Kelly-Ann Welch, Pearl Cornelius, Kellishaw Olivierre, Nikita Belgrave and Tiffany Harding. He was sentenced to hang.
Through his attorney Andrew Pilgrim, Q.C., Bynoe today told the three-member Court of Appeal panel of Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, Madam Justice Kaye Goodridge and Madam Justice Margaret Reifer, that his indictment on the charges was “inappropriate” when compared to that of his co-accused Renaldo Anderson Alleyne.
Alleyne pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given six life sentences while Bynoe went to trial, was found guilty and was given six death sentences.
“To some extent I am questioning whether the DPP’s decision to go to trial with a murder indictment on one hand and to accept the plea on the other is inappropriate and ought to be called into question by this court.
“It is our submission that the DPP’s decision to proceed in this way is inappropriate and led to a danger that the appellant ought not to have been exposed to at all. And that in fact he should have been indicted for manslaughter and gone to trial for that,” Pilgrim submitted.
He argued that in reviewing the case however you look at the circumstances “those men did not go there to kill those
. . . girls”.
“In this case there was no evidence that the appellant intended to cause grave serious bodily harm or to kill anyone and that as part of his defence, essentially the jury should have been told what exactly was the evidence, if any. It seems that that was never done and the failure by the trial judge to put the defence,” he added.
The Queen’s Counsel further stated that he could not view the case of manslaughter “as the worse of the worse” as he had dealt with manslaughter cases that are “far worse in terms of the intent”.
In the appellant’s nine grounds of appeal submitted before the panel, Pilgrim also argued that the failure to offer the appellant a lawyer in certain circumstances was “the end of the matter” and for that reason he should “be retried”.
“The appellant chose to go unrepresented,” Pilgrim admitted but added that while it was the appellant’s right to do so, it was also his constitutional right to have a lawyer if he wanted one.
“So he can waive, which he apparently did at the beginning of the trial, . . . but at some point he decided ‘I am not managing, I want a lawyer’ and the judge understood and accepted that as his position.” Pilgrim stated that enquiries were made through the Legal Aide Department and much of Bynoe’s history of having a lawyer and then not having a lawyer was canvassed.
“But all of that . . . is completely irrelevant at the point when counsel comes forward and says ‘I am willing to act’. So the only issue for this court in my view is, was Mr Keith Simmons’ request for an adjournment for two weeks to be able to join the trial of which six murder trials are pending and the man faces six death sentences . . . unreasonable?
“We are bound to weigh up whether counsel seeking to join the brief at that stage (when the court had already heard evidence of 17 witnesses) would have been entitled to a reasonable adjournment to prepare and whether failure to do that is so significant a breach of constitutional right to counsel, that this matter ought to be retried with counsel,” the veteran defense lawyer submitted.
In reply however, the prosecutors – Principal Crown Counsel Alliston Seale and Crown Counsel Oliver Thomas – submitted that the appellant’s appeal should be “dismissed” and “the sentence affirmed”.
Seale, a leading prosecutor from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions argued that the appellant was “the mastermind” for the Campus Trendz robbery and “he created the plan”.
He further argued that the appellant’s decision to go to trial as opposed to “copping a plea” was his right.
“So I cannot see realistically how we can argue that he should not have been put on trial for the offence of murder.”
He says as the Crown’s case was at the time of trial, there was “no doubt” from the onset of a plan for robbery and to “execute it” by way of fire bombing the store which contained people.
“So how can we say there was no intention to kill or at the very least no intention to cause serious bodily harm when one fire bombs a store in the circumstances. And even if that is so, who determines that? Isn’t it the duty of the jury? . . . . And I think the trial judge put it clearly to the jury when she spoke at her summation,” Seale stated.
He went on to state that the charge of murder was also properly indicted.
“Not withstanding that, one opted to proceed along a certain route and the other decide to adopt another route . . . So I do not know how we can determine that in those circumstances that the charge was improper
. . . both were in an equal position.”
The prosecutor further stated that it was his view that “the judge did not err” when she did not facilitate a further two-week adjournment in the trial.
“There was no breach in the appellant’s right to counsel for this type of matter notwithstanding the seriousness of the matter . . . In this case the learned trial judge was correct to decide that the trial had to press on . . . ” he added.