BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 13, 2015–The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), usually based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, is scheduled to hold its first sitting in the country of Belize next Monday, but that visit will be historic for more reasons than one: that is because the CCJ will deliberate on its first application from Belize to hear an appeal for a murder conviction.
The CCJ is slated to hear arguments on Monday, April 20, 2015, on whether it should grant special leave for Gregory August, 26, to appeal against the Queen, following a conviction back in 2012 by a jury, after hearings before Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas. The Court of Appeal heard the case last year, and upheld the conviction of life in prison, handed down by the lower court.
The Court of Appeal justices, led by Justice Manuel Sosa, explained that August had been convicted of the “incredibly cowardly murder” of Alvin Alpheus Robinson, 73, who had one eye and was physically challenged. Robinson was stabbed on May 23, 2009 by persons who invaded his palmetto shack at Mile 8 on the George Price Highway, and he died shortly after at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
The appeal was heard in March 2014 and the decision was handed down this February, dismissing the appeal and upholding August’s life sentence.
When our newspaper reported on August’s Supreme Court conviction back in 2012, it was alleged by police that Robinson was murdered out of retaliation after an altercation between August and Robinson’s son. Blood evidence on August’s white T-shirt and a shoe print at the murder scene were presented in court to help land the conviction in the case, and these are among the areas which Anthony Sylvestre, attorney for the appellant, challenged on appeal.
Now August is pursuing an appeal in the country’s highest court.
In January 2015, CCJ president Sir Justice Dennis Byron announced the court’s intent to hold a session in Belize this year. Byron was being hosted by the Belize Bar Association. Then Bar president Eamon Courtenay, SC, told journalists that the CCJ had never heard a criminal appeal from Belize.
Courtenay will be one of three attorneys appearing for August next Monday, April 20. The other two attorneys are Sylvestre and Iliana Swift.
Courtenay has indicated to us that the Death Penalty Project of the UK has assisted with drafting the petition for special leave for the CCJ appeal, and they would provide their usual support work for the substantive hearing of the matter, if the court grants leave.
The prosecution did not seek the death penalty when the case was first heard before the Supreme Court, and so as it stands, August’s appeal is against the life sentence handed down to him effective 2009, the date of his remand for Robinson’s murder.