Appeal court to hear first challenges to life tariffs

| 20/08/2019 | 16 Comments
Cayman News Service
HMP Northward

(CNS): As the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal summer session opens this week, the first criminal cases that the higher court will hear relate to the tariffs handed down to a number of prisoners serving life sentences for murder and rape.

Most of the appellants have already tried and failed to appeal their convictions but are now challenging the length of time they have been ordered to serve before they can become eligible for parole.

After the UK abolished the death penalty in 1991 for all its Caribbean overseas territories, those convicted of murder were given life sentences. And despite originally meaning that defendants would remain in jail for the rest of their lives, in practice several lifers have been released on licence.

While there was no formal means of seeking release, all governors since the 1990’s had discretionary powers to parole lifers.

However, after Cayman signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights in 2006 and then created its own Bill of Rights under the 2009 Constitution, the concept of life without parole had to be formally addressed, giving those in jail for life something to work towards and hope for. Consequently, the Conditional Release Law, 2014 paved the way for lifers to be given a tariff, or a specified period they must serve before they could be considered for release.

The law now provides for a tariff of 30 years for murder, the crime the majority of lifers at HMP Northward have been convicted of, but it can be less or more depending on the circumstances of each case.

In most cases the tariffs handed down have been much higher than the jail time handed down to several convicted killers under the old regime, which led to several prisoners challenging the equity of justice in the wake of the law. A handful of lifers who dodged the hangman’s noose and then applied to the governor for mercy succeeded in securing their release on licence, in some cases after just over 20 years.

This had set an expectation for all lifers. As a result, several of them had tried to challenge the tariffs when they were given conditional release hearings. But the issue was addressed by Justice Alex Henderson during some of the earliest cases when he dismissed the challenges, stating that not enough prisoners had been released in this way to have established a true precedent.

Nevertheless, it is expected that this issue will be argued before the appeal court judges when the cases begin this week, as lawyers seek to challenge what are in many case lengthy terms even before these inmates can be considered for parole without any guarantees of release.

The first case, which will be heard Thursday, is that of Brian Borden (32), who was convicted of gunning down Robert Mackford Bush in a gang-related killing in West Bay in 2011. Borden was given a 34-year tariff last year after the judge in the case described it as an execution. Justice Henderson found that Borden had shot Bush in the face from point blank range in order to enhance his standing with the Birch Tree Hill gang and remain its leader.

Jeffrey Barnes (40), who is scheduled to appear after Borden, is the only lifer who was not convicted of murder. Barnes, a serial rapist, was given 35 years after a particularly brutal sexual assault, which was his third conviction for rape. The sentence was handed down by the late Justice Charles Quin, who made it clear that he was being given a life sentence because of the gravity of the crimes he had committed.

But the life term was a discretionary sentence and not, as is the case of murder, a mandatory term. This means Barnes is already able to seek parole after serving just 60% of the sentence. But there are no guarantees that Barnes would be released after 21 years, as he must still demonstrate that he has been rehabilitated and no longer poses a danger to women.

On Friday the court will hear appeals from Raziel Jeffers (35), who is serving 38 years for two gang-related murder convictions. Jeffers was convicted of killing Damion Ming in March 2010 and Marcus Ebanks in 2009. He is also serving 20 years for the manslaughter of ‘numbers man’ Marcus Duran in 2010.

Larry Ricketts (34), convicted of the abduction, rape and murder of Estella Scott-Roberts, who is serving the longest time so far of any lifer, with a 40-year tariff, will appear after Jeffers. While his co-murderer Kirkland Henry (38) is also serving 40 years, Henry has not yet appealed the sentence. He is understood to be suffering from severe mental health problems since his conviction for what the chief justice described as a killing that was “unprecedented in these islands”.

Finally for this appeal court session, Leonard Antonio Ebanks (48) will appeal his 34-year sentence for the gang-related killing of Tyrone Burrell, who was just 20 years old when he was shot in the back of the head in a West Bay yard in 2010. But Ebanks is also serving a concurrent 20-year sentence for accessory to murder in the killing of Swiss Banker Frederic Bise, also in West Bay in 2008.

Ebanks is accused of assisting the killer, Chad Anglin, to cover up the murder after Bise’s body was found in the back of his own burned-out vehicle. Anglin is serving a 34-year life tariff for that crime but it is not clear if Anglin plans to challenge that sentence.

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Category: Crime

Comments (16)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Lifers is 100 Years not 30….30 are house loans!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Weirdly, the court website indicates that there are “four or more judges available” to serve on the Court of Appeal but only identifies the president, a man named Goldring. He appears well qualified, but one wonders who are the others who are “available”, how long they have been on the court, what their credentials are, and who, if anyone, has served ad hoc lately.

    Perhaps all the lawyers know these things, but it should be easier than it is for the public also to know even though all this is controlled by our betters. One wonders whether any are residents for example? A number of judges have been reported as sitting by videolink lately. Maybe Auntie would take this on?

    CNS: I’ve sent this on to Auntie. The question is something like “How can the public find out who in on the appeal court and where can we read more about them?” If that doesn’t cover what you would like to find out, can you email her at auntie@caymannewsservice.com

  3. Anonymous says:

    It astonishes me that Borden got less time than Barnes.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Estella’s blood still cries out from the ground. Truth will eventually come.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    The only thing worst than these convicted murders wanting light sentences, are those who agree with them.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Gallows still functional?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    CNS, what has happened to the convicted murderers of Curtis Seymour?

    CNS Note: This should answer that Q https://caymannewsservice.com/2017/11/court-sets-lowest-life-tariff-for-2000-murder/

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  8. Say it like it is says:

    These are all heinous crimes and I trust the original sentences will be upheld.

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