The March 2016 decision that Carlton Junior Hall was guilty of murdering Adrian Wilkinson has been upheld by the region’s highest court. He must however return to the local High Court for re-sentencing.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) handed down that ruling this morning as it dismissed Hall’s appeal against the murder conviction and affirmed the order of Barbados’ Court of Appeal that he return before Justice Jacqueline Cornelius, to find out the new sentence.
Hall had been sentenced to hang, as mandated by section 2 of the Offences Against the Person Act following the jury’s verdict.
In today’s ruling the CCJ also called for “more searching investigations and prosecutions”, on the basis that criminal cases, and especially capital cases, “required and deserved thorough investigation and presentation of all relevant evidence.”
Hall, of 2nd Avenue, Chapman Lane, St Michael appealed both his conviction and sentence after being found guilty by a 12-member jury of shooting Wilkinson dead in Speightstown, St Peter on August 14, 2011.
Once convicted, Hall challenged the results of the case before the Barbados Court of Appeal. That challenge was dismissed on January 23, 2019 and an order was made that he receive a new sentence.
Dissatisfied with that ruling, the convict approached the region’s highest court and Barbados’ final appellate body.
That appeal was also unsuccessful.
The convict, through his attorneys-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, Queen’s Counsel; Kamisha Benjamin and Rashida Edwards, had argued before the CCJ that the identification evidence against him was “so weak and unreliable” that Justice Cornelius should not have allowed the case to go to the jury and that, having done so, she was mistaken in directing that there were special circumstances to support the identification.
Hall also claimed that his lawyer had also failed to raise the issue of his “good character” and the jury may not have convicted him if that had been done.
In considering the appeal Justice Winston Anderson, who handed down today’s ruling, revealed that the Court was spilt in its decision on Hall’s appeal by a 3-2 majority.
Three of the five-member panel who heard the appeal namely Justice Jacob Wit, Madam Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee and Justice Anderson agreed on the fact that the eyewitness in the case, Julian Benn, a friend of the deceased, saw Hall twice on the evening of the incident, prior to seeing him shoot the deceased while they were leaving a “session” in St Peter. On August 18, 2011, Benn said he accompanied officers to the police station and directly identified Hall out of a line-up as the person who killed his friend.
The justices ruled, “This amounted to special circumstances within the meaning of the Barbados Evidence Act, and the Trial Judge was, therefore, right to allow the case to go to the jury.”
They further agreed that while the convict was entitled to “a good character direction” as he had no prior convictions for violent offences, “it was clear” the jurors believed Benn and not him. “So that even if the good character direction was given, it would not have made a difference to the jury’s verdict,” the ruling said.
But two of the judges – Justices Debys Barrow and Peter Jamadar – were of the view that Justice Cornelius should have accepted the “no case submission” made by Pilgrim on the grounds that the identification evidence was not supported, either by special circumstances or otherwise. However, they were of the view that had the defence given a good character direction, “it might have swayed the jury given that the evidence against the appellant was so weak”.
Though the CCJ affirmed the March 2, 2016 conviction of the 12-member jury, it said the appeal against sentencing became “unnecessary” given its June 2018 ruling in the matters of Jabari Sensimania Nervais v The Queen and Dwayne Omar Severin v The Queen, that the mandatory death sentence for murder was unconstitutional.
Representing the Crown in the appeal before the CCJ were acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Blackman and Crown Counsel Neville Watson.