On 15 June 2011, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council delivered judgments in two capital cases.
The case of Tabeel Lewis was remitted to the Court of Appeal of Trinidad & Tobago on fresh medical evidence and in the case of Maxo Tido from The Bahamas, the Privy Council clarified the approach that a sentencing judge should follow where the imposition of the death sentence is discretionary. The Death Penalty Project assisted both Mr. Lewis and Mr. Tido in their appeals to the Privy Council.
Maxo Tido was convicted of the murder of Donnell Conover in 2006 and was sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal of The Bahamas dismissed Mr. Tido’s appeal in 2008, and Mr. Tido then appealed against both his conviction and sentence to the Privy Council in London.
The Privy Council dismissed the appeal against conviction. However on sentence, they went on to clarify the approach to sentencing in capital cases. The Court explained that two criteria need to be satisfied. First, the death sentence can only be imposed in cases where the facts of the offence are “the most extreme and exceptional”, “the worst of the worst” or the “rarest of the rare”. Secondly, there must be no reasonable prospect of reform of the offender, and the object of punishment can only be achieved by the death sentence. Both of these conditions must be properly satisfied before a court can ever impose a sentence of death. The Court also stressed that psychiatric and/or psychological reports need to be obtained in every case.
In the case of Maxo Tido, the Court found that although it was an “appalling” crime, “it was not one which warrants the most condign punishment of death”.
“(We are) satisfied that this case does not come within that wholly exceptional category. This was a dreadful crime. A young life was extinguished in brutal circumstances but it is not a case that can be placed along side the most horrific murders of which, sadly, human beings are capable.” (paragraph 36)
In these circumstances, the Privy Council allowed Mr. Tido’s appeal and his case has been remitted to the Court of Appeal in the Bahamas for resentencing.
Julian Knowles QC of Matrix Chambers was instructed pro bono by Simons Muirhead and Burton to represent Mr. Tido in the Privy Council.
Tabeel Lewis was convicted of the murder of Dayah Ramsook in 2003 at the age of 18 and received a mandatory sentence of death. His appeal to the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago was rejected in May 2007. He then appealed to the Privy Council against both his conviction and sentence.
Their Lordships’ Board dismissed the grounds on conviction and held that the judge was entitled not to have left the defence of provocation to the jury. However, the Board went on to find that fresh psychiatric and psychological evidence should now be considered and the case has been remitted to the Court of Appeal in Trinidad & Tobago who will need to decide if there is now evidence of provocation fit for consideration by the jury.
Owen Davies QC and Maya Sikand of Garden Court Chambers were instructed pro bono by Simons Muirhead & Burton to represent Mr. Lewis in the Privy Council. Professor Nigel Eastman, a forensic psychiatrist, and Dr. Timothy Green, a clinical psychologist, were instructed as medical experts and their evidence will be considered by the Court of Appeal.