The Death Penalty Project, a London-based human rights legal organisation, has assisted Kay Bacchus-Browne, a local attorney, in a successful appeal on behalf of a prisoner who suffers from mental illness and has been held on death row in St Vincent and the Grenadines since 2008.
The case was heard last week and at the conclusion of the appeal hearing on 31st May 2012, before the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Court delivered an oral judgment and allowed the appeal of Shorn Samuel. Mr Samuel’s conviction for murder was quashed and a conviction of manslaughter was substituted by reason of diminished responsibility. The death sentence was reduced to a sentence of life imprisonment.
In 2008, Mr Samuel was convicted and sentenced to death after a trial by jury at the Kingstown assizes in St Vincent and the Grenadines for the murder of Stacey Wilson in 2006.
In 2010, local counsel Kay Bacchus-Browne asked the Death Penalty Project to assist her in Mr Samuel’s appeal against his conviction and sentence at the Court of Appeal. There were serious concerns as to Mr Samuel’s mental state at the time of the offence and consequently the Death Penalty Project instructed UK-based forensic psychiatrist Professor Nigel Eastman to assess him on a pro bono basis. Paul Bowen QC from Doughty Street Chambers was called to the Bar at St Vincent and the Grenadines and appeared alongside Kay Bacchus-Browne on behalf of Mr Samuel in the Court of Appeal. The Court found that the new evidence demonstrated that Mr Samuel was suffering from a paranoid psychotic disorder and a personality disorder at the time of the offence and the contribution of these disorders was such to substantially diminish his responsibility for the offence.
‘We are very pleased with the Court’s decision,’ said Saul Lehrfreund and Parvais Jabbar, executive directors of the Death Penalty Project. ‘Mr Samuel has a history of psychotic disorders yet inadequate medical evidence was adduced at trial. The Court of Appeal’s decision has again demonstrated the importance of the provision of expert evidence prior to trial and the failure to do so clearly breached the appellant’s right to a fair trial.’
The executive directors, together with Paul Bowen QC, travelled to St Vincent and the Grenadines to appear with Kay Bacchus-Browne and assist at the appeal hearing last week. Professor Nigel Eastman also attended the hearing to give expert medical evidence.
About the Death Penalty Project
The Death Penalty Project is an independent international human rights organisation housed in the offices of Soho legal firm Simons Muirhead & Burton.
For more than 20 years, the Death Penalty Project has worked to protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty. As a result of it work, the mandatory death penalty has been abolished in ten Commonwealth Caribbean countries as well as Uganda, Kenya and Malawi, and the lives of hundreds of prisoners facing execution have been saved.
For further press information, please contact: Annette So on (+44) 203 206 2748