He is now 41 years but is now a free man after spending 22 years behind bars at the Richmond Hill prison on a murder rap.
St. Andrew’s resident, Donnason Knights has been freed from prison after being convicted for the September 9, 1993 murder of his ex-girlfriend, 16-year-old Cherrie-Ann Mathew of Grenville in St. Andrew.
Knight was freed on April 29, after serving close to 22 calendar years (equivalent to close to 33 prison years) at Her Majesty’s Prison at Richmond Hill.
The accused was convicted on August 2, 1995, of capital murder and sentenced to death by hanging for intentionally causing the death of the teenager, who died as a result of stab wounds inflicted to her body.
Pending his execution, Knights appealed his sentence to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal but it was dismissed by the Court on September 16, 1996.
He then applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London for Special Leave to Appeal as a Poor Person, and was granted his wish on April 10, 1997. However, the Privy Council dismissed the appeal on May 21, 1998.
A rap of hope came for Knights in 2001, when the Privy Council ruled
that the introduction of the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional.
According to Attorney-at-Law Ruggles Ferguson, who represented Knights in his final and successful appeal, the effect of the Privy Council ruling is that upon his conviction for murder, “the State violated his human rights”.
“…To convict a person of murder and automatically sentence them to death without giving them an opportunity to say why the death penalty should not be applied would have been illegal,” the attorney told THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
Ferguson went on to explain, “In May 2008, the Privy Council declared that the mandatory death sentence imposed on him (Knights) was unconstitutional” and so his case was among many others that were sent back to the High Court for re-sentencing and the sentence was then reduced to life imprisonment. And so, the Grenada Court of Appeal presided over by Justices Davidson Baptiste, Mario Michel and Gerthel Thom handed Knights a ruling of “time served.”
Ferguson also pointed out that one of the main mitigating factors considered by the Court of Appeal was his client’s good behaviour in prison and based on his “conduct and industry”, Knights was “entitled to 1/3 of his sentence off” or eight months remission with (one prison year being equivalent to eight months).”
The attorney-at-law noted that “killings take place in different circumstances and therefore you cannot have one cap fits all…to say for every killing that once you are found guilty you are sentenced to death.”
Knights, who was 19-years old at the time of the dreadful killing told the court in his unsworn testimony that after spending the night of September 8, 1993, with the deceased, they were both attacked by a man in black with a weapon in his hand and a mask covering his face.
He also testified that he and the deceased ran from the man, became separated, and later he was attacked by a man with a mask who stabbed him with a knife.
Female medical doctor, Mary Courteney who was at the time attached to the Princess Alice Hospital in Mirabeau, St Andrew testified under oath that upon examination of Knights, she determined that he suffered three stab wounds 3 cms long and one 2 cms long, and that those wounds could have been caused by a sharp instrument with a point such as a knife.
The evidence in support of Knights at his trial appeared to suggest that the murder accused was attacked by the killer of his deceased girlfriend and that he had suffered injuries in the process.
The high court was also told that Knights suffered a small abrasion to the left cheek, and that the measure of force would have been moderate to inflict those wounds.
Dr. Courtney told the court on cross-examination that there was a possibility that the wounds received by Knights could have been self-inflicted.
This newspaper understands that Knights currently resides at St. Paul’s in St George.