Everyone must be afforded due process rights, especially those facing the ultimate penalty: execution. The DPP has made extraordinary progress in protecting this most fundamental right in a range of jurisdiction.
Antigua prisoner released after 20 years on death row
Cornwall was sentenced to death in 1996 for the murder of his former girlfriend. At the time Antigua carried the mandatory death penalty for murder, a practice which has since been found to violate fundamental human rights.
Cornwall’s death sentence was set aside by the High Court in 2015, along with that of six other prisoners who had also been given the mandatory death sentence. Antigua has not carried out an execution since 1991 and these were the last remaining prisoners on death row.
During Cornwall’s resentencing the High Court was presented with evidence of Cornwall’s rehabilitation and remorse about the crime. It also considered that Cornwall had spent two decades on death row, during which time he had come within days of execution. Following the Privy Council’s ruling in the case of Pratt and Morgan, no prisoner in the Caribbean can spend more than five years on death row without his or her execution constituting inhuman or degrading treatment.
In a judgment delivered on 22 November 2016, the Court took into account the breaches of Cornwall’s rights through the imposition of the unlawful mandatory sentence and prolonged period on death row, as well as the mitigating factors in the case, and resentenced Cornwall to 30 years imprisonment. Given the time deducted for good behaviour and time already served, this means he will be set free immediately.
One of the other remaining death row prisoners, Michael Mason was also released following his separate resentencing proceedings.
All of Antigua’s remaining death row prisoners have now been resentenced, leaving the country’s death row empty. Antigua joins five other retentionist countries in the Caribbean that have emptied their death rows; Cuba, Dominica, St Lucia and most recently Belize and Jamaica.
Notes to Editors
The Death Penalty Project assisted local attorneys, Clement Bird and Kendrickson Kentish, the Antigua legal team in Cornwall’s resentencing, with the support of UK barrister Joe Middleton of Doughty Street Chambers, who was instructed pro bono and Amanda Clift-Matthews (In-house Counsel).
“From death row to freedom — murder convicts released”, Antigua Observer Newspaper, 23 November 2016
“Former death row inmates to serve more time”, Antigua Observer Newspaper, 29 November 2016
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