Grenada’s most experienced criminal defense attorney, Anselm Clouden has called for Jurors to be given at least one week of training in order to handle high-profile cases like murder.
Clouden made the call as he challenged the stiff prison sentence handed down by female high court judge, Madam Justice Paula Gilford after a 12-member jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on 62-year-old Albert Alexis for murder.
Justice Gilford imposed a life sentence on Alexis for Non-Capital Murder for the May 2015 death of 31-year-old Alson Henry of Plaissance, St. Andrew.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Clouden said that Jurors need some form of training to get more acquainted with certain legal concepts before being empaneled for high court service.
“I think our jurors need when they come in, to not only (receive) a summation by the judge, but they need a week in training so that they (can have an) appreciation (of) legal concepts”, he remarked.
“You take a fellow from his workplace, you put them on the jury, he doesn’t know anything…and then he hears all kinds of technical arguments by counsel and counsel’s submission and he feels if the police bring him (an accused person) here, he’s guilty and that’s where we are today”, he said.
Clouden has served notice that he intends to file an appeal against the stiff prison sentence imposed by the judge on October 27.
Henry died following multiple stab wounds to his body after an altercation with Alexis over a piece of land.
An autopsy report revealed that the deceased died as a result of Hypovolemic Shock due to a stab wound to the chest.
According to Clouden, the sentence handed down by Justice Gilford was “a bit excessive” and felt it was done due to “a lack of sentencing act and a lack of sentencing guidelines.”
He said, “You have in the UK, published every year, sentencing guidelines emanating from a sentencing act. So, there is a clear maximum, there is a clear minimum. You do a minimum of say 25 years and you become eligible for parole”.
The attorney pointed out that this actually happened in a case in the United States involving football star, OJ Simpson.
Clouden said that Simpson was sent to prison and due to his good behaviour, he was entitled to parole and an application to this effect went before a Parole board,
“We have a Mercy Committee here but that is only in respect to murder and they rarely review cases of long sentences with a minimum time served, and that could only happen if we have certain sentencing guidelines.
“So, the judge in pronouncing sentence must say, I sentence you to twenty years hard labour, at a minimum of 10 years (and) you would become entitled to parole. So, you know after you do 10 years, you can begin to apply to the Parole board to review your case – you (can) do a minimum of 10 (years) subject to early release.”
The attorney spoke of the issue of self-defense coming up during the trial as all the evidence presented pointed in that direction.
Clouden told reporters the fact that the killing of Henry was not pre-meditated, the judge should have taken that into consideration in handing down sentence.
He said, “Albert’s case was not malice or forethought. We have seen in recent times someone getting 80 years without a minimum period served after which he can be paroled. We don’t have it. We have no certainty. The sentences for offences throughout the region vary greatly; in some jurisdictions you may get eight years for murder, it depends on the factual circumstances.
“…In this case of Alexis, he hadn’t premeditated anything. They were drinking, there was an altercation when they left the bar, they were arguing they get into a scuffle and he died…he was stabbed and died. What I am saying is that there was no malice or forethought, it is no premeditation, it’s a sort of spur of the moment, so life imprisonment is sort of harsh in that circumstances.”
Clouden gave reporters an insight into the arguments he intends to provide to the Court of Appeal justices in order to get the sentence altered.
“The extent of the sentence, we think it’s exceedingly harsh. That type of case, that type of offence, that type of offender, the age of the offender must be taken into consideration. He is not a young man, so, when you sentence him for life without saying a term certain – this is the same grounds on which the Maurice Bishop 17 sentences were commuted because it says life – does that mean it is not for life, for a term of years?
“…The surrounding sentence of the (Albert) case itself does not warrant such a harsh sentence, notwithstanding the verdict and it is well known in legal circles that juries sometimes return perverse verdicts. This is why you have pardons post-humus – Her Majesty goes to the cemetery after a jury would have returned a verdict of guilty of murder, the person is hung, the evidence reveals a year, two years later that this person could not have been the offender and the Queen goes (and) pardon him in the cemetery.”