Antigua: 45 years to life for ex-death row convicts

Antigua Observer:-Mellanson Harris and Marvin Joseph will be in their 60s by the time they have served 45 years of the life sentence imposed on them yesterday by High Court Justice Darshan Ramdhani.

At that time, the convicts who were on death row, will qualify for a review of their sentences in relation to the time being spent for the 1994 murders of US and UK visitors William and Kathleen Clever, Ian Cridland and Thomas Williams who were gunned down on the Computa Centre Challenger vessel moored just off Barbuda.

The judge asked the men to stand in the prisoner’s box, before declaring “Marvin Joseph … Mellanson Harris you are sentenced to life imprisonment. You shall serve a minimum of 45 years as representing the punitive element of this sentence. All time spent on remand or under detention shall be deducted from this period. On the expiry of this period, you shall be reviewed by a court in accordance with Section 3 (b) of the Offences against the Person Act for the possibility for early release.”

The men, who have been behind bars since 1994 were stoic, while relatives of the Clevers were in tears for most of the proceedings.

The judge noted, “This is perhaps one of the worst cases of public criminal violence … They were bound, gagged … they initially offered no resistance thinking that the men were going to rob them and then escape … This is a case where the seriousness of the offence is exceptionally high, and committed in a heinous manner.”

He also noted that although the quartet was helpless, they were murdered and it must have been a traumatic experience to listen to the attackers plan their death and then take them out execution style one at a time.

Harris and Joseph who were 21 and 20, respectively, at the time of the killings, were initially sentenced to death following their conviction in 1996. While they were incarcerated, they were measured for their coffins and they observed the preparation of the gallows while awaiting the imposition of the death penalty as the date drew near.

This was the mandatory sentence at the time, but years later, the Privy Council ruled it as unconstitutional, stating that each case should be treated on its own merit and the convict must be given an opportunity to mitigate and plead with the court prior to sentencing.

Although the Privy Council’s ruling was made more than a decade ago, the two convicts were only called up for resentencing in 2013.

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