The Supreme Court acknowledged today it is caught in a “conundrum” when it comes to sentencing murder convicts after the nation’s highest court struck down the mandatory death sentence.
That was the consensus by a Justice of Appeal and senior attorneys-at-law as lawyers wrapped up oral arguments in the appeal on the six death sentences of convicted murderer Jamar Dwayne Bynoe.
Bynoe was found guilty back in 2016 of six counts of murder in the robbery and firebombing of the Campus Trendz store on September 3, 2010 which led to the deaths of six women – Shanna Griffith, Kelly-Ann Welch, Pearl Cornelius, Kellishaw Olivierre, Nikita Belgrave and Tiffany Harding.
He was sentenced to hang while his co-accused Renaldo Anderson Alleyne, who had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was given six life sentences.
Appealing Bynoe’s death sentences, Andrew Pilgrim, QC told the appeal court: “It’s our position that the fact that this man went to trial for murder means that automatically we are setting him apart.
“In other words, we are denying him the possibility of a sentence that would be appropriate. And right-thinking persons looking on at this would wonder how is it that one man is sentenced to six death sentences and one man six life sentences.”
In reply, Principal Crown Counsel Alliston Seale declared there was no “inequity of sentencing” because Boyce was the “protagonist” in the crime and Alleyne was not. He said that this was a case of a murder conviction as opposed to a manslaughter plea and that the same options were put to the two accused.
Seale said: “Clearly there is no statutory provision yet to deal with this…. Parliament has not yet done it…. We started but we all know where that went and as a result, we are still left with the old Offences Against the Persons Act.”
In June 2018, the final appellate court, the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), struck down the mandatory death penalty in Barbados.
The judgment in the appeal cases of Barbadian murder convicts, Jabari Sensimania Nervais and Dwayne Omar Severin, also deemed that a section of the Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death.
“You are saying that we are in a conundrum?” Madam Justice Kaye Goodrige asked, adding, “Because the Caribbean Court of Justice has made certain pronouncements but the law states certain things? The answer is rhetorical. And Parliament is supposed to make the necessary amendments to bring whatever is there in line… so we are really in a conundrum. What do we do? Do we follow law? Do we follow the CCJ which is saying something progressive but it doesn’t match with what the law is? What do we do? Rhetorical again.”
Seale responded saying that although judicial officers understood that the court was supposed to interpret the law, the issue now was on the separation of powers.
Goodridge responded: “Yes the court could determine whether something is constitutional or not… and we did, but the question is that something further needs to be done.”
However, Seale maintained that this “uneven situation” cannot continue.
“The Constitution itself… is the supreme law…. The only person who could change that is Parliament. So court pronouncing that, with the greatest respect, doesn’t change what the Constitution has said. We need to have the amendment done all throughout whatever needs to be done,” Goodridge responded.
Pilgrim, who revealed that he may have been counsel in the last murder trial in May last year, also agreed that the court was in a conundrum “in terms of sentencing procedures”.
“I just think there needs to be a sense of urgency,” he stated.