The Privy Council has today overturned the conviction of a Bahamian man who represented himself in a murder trial in which the prosecution sought the imposition of the death penalty.
In May 2013, Simeon Bain, who had limited education and poor reading ability, was convicted of the murder of Rashad Morris and other related offences, after his counsel withdrew at the start of the trial and he was left to conduct the trial himself.
While noting there is no absolute right to representation, the Privy Council observed that it is highly desirable that a defendant in a murder trial facing the death penalty should be continuously represented. The Privy Council described Mr Bain’s case as one of “serious mismanagement” by the trial judge and that “had he been represented the evidence may well have been materially different.” Ultimately, this deprived Mr Bain of a fair trial.
The matter will now be sent back to the Court of Appeal in The Bahamas to decide whether a retrial should be ordered.
Saul Lehrfreund, Co-Executive Director of The Death Penalty Project says:
This decision reaffirms the principle that minimum fair trial standards must be respected in capital cases without exception. This important decision of the Privy Council critically sets out the relevant principles a trial judge must apply to ensure that individuals facing the death penalty are afforded every opportunity to access legal representation. Mr Bain had faced a possible death sentence without the assistance of a lawyer and this was rightly found to be a miscarriage of justice by the Privy Council.
Notes to editors
Martin A Lundy II, partner at Callenders & Co. (of the Bahamas Bar), Edward Fitzgerald QC (Doughty Street Chambers) and Amanda Clift-Matthews (In-House Counsel) were instructed pro bono in the matter.
Read the full judgment from the Privy Council here.