St Peter resident Dwayne Omar Alleyne who was on death row for the past four years has won an appeal to have his murder conviction quashed.
The former convict from Maynards is to now face a retrial “as soon as practical”, the Court of Appeal ruled today.
Alleyne was convicted of June 17, 2016 after a 12-member jury found him guilty by unanimous verdict of shooting then 29-year-old Paul Hope to death on January 21, 2008.
As provided by the law then, he was immediately sentenced to death by hanging by the trial judge, Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius.
Alleyne has been on death row since then, but in May last year, he lodged an appeal against his sentence to a panel of Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson and Justices Kaye Goodridge and William Chandler on three grounds.
Alleyne contends that Hope pulled a gun on him after grabbing him by the shirt. During the scuffle he was able to get hold of the gun which accidentally went off hitting Hope. Hope, he maintained, continued to advance on him and he fired the gun again in self-defence before dropping it and fleeing the scene.
The Crown, on the other hand, said Hope went to confront Alleyne about an incident and the accused pulled a gun from his waist and shot him once. Hope dropped to the ground but Alleyne stood over him and fired the gun again before leaving with the firearm.
The appellant’s attorneys-at-law Lesley Cargill Straker and Rashida Edwards argued that the trial judge erred when she failed to give complete direction to the jury on the defence to the incident; when she allowed an application by the prosecution “to admit prejudicial evidence” that the appellant had pointed a gun at one of the prosecution’s witnesses and when she “gave direction on motive to the jury based on the spurious evidence” of one of the Crown’s witnesses.
Today, Alleyne’s murder conviction was overturned by the three judges. They noted that the appellant pointed out that one of his defences to the charge was that of accident.
“The onus was therefore on the judge to ensure that the jury were given proper directions on the defences raised by the appellant . . . the direction which was given on accident was deficient. Further, the judge misdirected the jury when she treated the evidence given by Duane Sandiford as proving a shadow of a motive for the killing. In all the circumstances of the case we are left in doubt . . . that the conviction was safe and satisfactory.
“We have therefore concluded that we must allow the appeal and quash the conviction for murder,” Madam Justice Goodridge stated during a Zoom hearing and referring to sections of the Criminal Appeal Act.
The judge in delivering the decision went on to say that the charge which the appellant faced “is the most serious offence in the criminal calendar” and undoubtedly of grave public concern.
“Therefore this court must balance the competing interest of ensuring that persons charged with crime, in particular serious crimes such as murder, are prosecuted against the right of a defendant to a fair hearing within a reasonable time as provided for in the Constitution,” she ruled.
Taking into consideration several factors of the case the Court deemed that “a new trial was highly relevant”.
Madam Justice Goodridge said, it would appear that there was no prejudice to the defence if the matter is re-tried, based on the failing memories of witnesses, as the appellant gave an unsworn statement and called no witnesses at the trial.
She added that there was also no suggestion that the memories of the prosecution’s two eyewitnesses were failing or that they were unavailable to give evidence.
“In balancing all the factors, we have taken account of the public’s interest in the criminal justice system [and] maintaining public confidence in the system is crucial to the administration of justice in a developing society like Barbados. We must also be mindful of the need to ensure that our citizens feel assured that crimes do not go unpunished so as to undermine the public’s sense of security.
“Justice also means ensuring that the victims of crimes and their families get closure for their loved ones especially where the offence was murder. Thus justice is about the society at large and the victims of crimes in particular as well as the accused persons.
“Having regard for the apparent strength of the prosecution’s case, the fact that there are eyewitnesses to the alleged crime and that our Constitution places the highest value on human life, we are of the opinion that when all the factors are weighed justice will be properly served by ordering a retrial.
“The appeal is allowed, the conviction is quashed and the sentence set aside. We order a retrial which should take place as soon as practical,” the judge ruled.
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