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Jainarine Persaud

  • D.O.B: 15 June 1957
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Death penalty

Jainarine Persaud has spent over three decades  in prison in Trinidad & Tobago. His death sentence was imposed automatically and then later commuted on mass by the President. A model prisoner, who says he has accepted full responsibility for his actions, we are fighting for his right to have his sentenced reviewed by a court.

Jainarine's story

Jainarine left his home country of Guyana in the late 1970s in search of a better life in Trinidad.  He started a footwear business with a friend, whose murder he was later convicted of. Jainarine maintains his business partner had been killed accidentally following an argument but he and his co-accused had attempted to cover up the incident, something he now states as the biggest regret of his life.

Jainarine was arrested after fleeing the country and brought to trial in Trinidad, where he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty (the only sentence available to those convicted of murder). In December 1993, after almost six years on death row, Jainarine’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the President. This was thanks to a legal precedent set by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in one of our early cases, Pratt & Morgan -v- The Attorney General of Jamaica [1994] which established that a prolonged period of detention under threat of execution amounts to cruel and inhuman punishment.

Once his death sentence became unconstitutional Jainarine was entitled to have his case sent back to the courts for re-sentencing. Instead, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the President, along with 47 other prisoners who had also spent prolonged periods on death row. There was no consideration of the individual circumstances of each prisoner’s case and Jainarine was not able to present evidence that he was a reformed character and should be eligible for release.

 

[Since being in prison] I got involved in many programmes which are available within the system for self-development. I also went back to school and was successful with seven CXC subjects. I taught Adult and Computer Literacy to other inmates for a number of years […] At this point, after almost thirty-three years as a prisoner, I am humbly pleading with the powers that be, please send me back to my homeland

Jainarine Persaud

Challenging mass commutations

We have been assisting Jainarine since the 1990s when he wrote to The Death Penalty Project asking for help. Most recently, we brought a test case to the JCPC in London on behalf of him and 10 other prisoners in a similar situation. We argued that, once their death sentences had become unconstitutional, Jainarine and the other prisoners were entitled to have a new sentence imposed by a judge. For the President to impose substitute terms instead of a court and with no consideration of the individual circumstance of each case was unfair, we argued, and a violation of the prisoners’ constitutional rights.

Regrettably, the JCPC dismissed the appeal in July 2017. The Court did not find the practice of the President commuting death sentences en masse unconstitutional, but agreed that the process must be fair. It ruled that, whoever is reviewing the sentence, the individual circumstances of each case should be considered. Moreover, prisoners should be given the opportunity to see the reports on which the decision would be made and make representations. Since Jainarine and his co-appellants had not been provided with such an opportunity, the Court recommended the cases to be reconsidered by the Advisory Committee, which informs the President’s power of mercy.

We are helping to prepare Jainarine’s case for reconsideration.

Case Timeline

  1. Jainarine is arrested on suspicion of murder.

  2. Jainarine is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death

  3. Jainarine’s death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment

  4. The Death Penalty Project becomes involved in the case

  5. UN Human Rights Committee finds Jainarine’s treatment and conditions of detention to violate Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

  6. A constitutional motion is filed challenging the lawfulness of the substitute sentences imposed on Jainarine

  7. Jainarine and his 10 co-appellants are granted permission to appeal to the JCPC

  8. JCPC rejects appeal, but confirms that all the individual cases should be referred back to the President so the appropriate sentences can be determined following a fair procedure

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