Sentencing Commission Chairman Gregory Delzin

Attorney Gregory Delzin said the July 1994 execution of Glen Ashby was a prime example of how social and political pressures could influence courts in how they behave in certain circumstances.

During a webinar hosted yesterday by Greater Caribbean For Life, Delzon said the courts granted speedy stays of execution. Ashby was hanged ten minutes before his attorneys received a copy of the Privy Council’s stay of execution and just six days before completing five years under sentence of death which would have made him eligible to have his sentence commuted.

“The problem with a stay of execution is even if you get it in the first instance, it must always be applied through the appellate stage. At any of those stages, if there is no stay of execution, your client can be executed as in the case of Glen Ashby,” he said.

“In his case, we were before the Court of Appeal arguing against the Lower Court’s decision, the Court of Appeal signalled that they did not agree with our submissions, which would have meant that we would have to go to the Privy Council. The Court of Appeal did not grant a stay of execution to allow us to go to the Privy Council, but expressed the view that they did not expect the Registrar to carry out the execution.”

Delzin said one of the positives that came out of Ashby’s death—if it could be put that way—was the courts thereafter were very quick to grant stays of execution because of the legal embarrassment following statements from the Privy Council concerning the conduct of the courts.

He said the entire death penalty process in terms of constitutional motions and challenges depended on the strength and independence of the courts and the judiciaries in the Caribbean were sufficiently strong and independent after Ashby’s death.

President of the World Coalition Against Death Penalty in Puerto-Rico, Kevin Rivera-Medina, said the Caribbean played an important role in global efforts for the cessation of the death penalty.

He said Dominica voted for the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the UN General Assembly in 2018 and Guyana abstained from voting on the United Nations resolution in favour of a moratorium on the death penalty.

Antiguan attorney Dr David Dorsett said that island cut and pasted the UK’s Extradition Act which states it will not extradite a person from their jurisdiction to another jurisdiction if in doing so the person is likely to face the death penalty and adopted it.

Also speaking at the webinar was Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon who said capital punishment is not a deterrent to violent crimes. Even with the hanging of Dole Chadee in 1999, despite that “novenas of hangings” of nine people, the murder rate in T&T kept escalating.