2010: William Garner, arsonist 1907: Qiu Jin, Chinese feminist and revolutionary

1994: Glenn Ashby, abruptly

July 14th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1994, Glenn (or Glen) Ashby was hastily hanged at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Ashby’s strange and internationally condemned (pdf) case was a milestone en route to the creation of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Constrained by a 1993 legal decision from the British Privy Council — still the court of final appeal for Commonwealth Caribbean countries — to the effect that death-sentenced prisoners who awaited execution for more than five years were inherently being subjected to “cruel and inhuman treatment,” Trinidad raced to hang Ashby before his five years ran out. Since Ashby had been sentenced on July 20, 1989 (he stabbed a guy to death during a burglary) that newly-discovered deadline was practically on top of them.

Ashby’s date with the hemp was scheduled for July 14, but his lawyers appealed to the Privy Council. However, in spite of an undertaking by Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General Keith Sobion that the execution would wait on the Council’s ruling, Ashby was hurried to the gallows around 6:30 a.m. Minutes later, word arrived that the Privy Council had actually granted the stay.

Needless to say, hanging a fellow while his appeal was still pending got some legal briefs in a twist.

“I’m disgusted that a country can sign international human rights law and then execute one of their citizens while an appeal is still pending,” death row barrister Saul Lehrfreund total The Guardian.* “From the information I have, this is a summary execution, it’s judicial murder.”

Most Trinidadians felt otherwise when it came to Ashby’s hanging.

And indeed, the jurisdiction of the Privy Council, and especially its reluctance to sanction capital punishment, became particularly controversial in the region during the high-crime 1990s; a similar execution hurried to circumvent the body took place in St. Kitts and Nevis, with similar post-hanging recriminations.

This perceived overseas meddling in local criminal justice helped bring about the creation of the Caribbean Court of Justice as a potential alternate court of last resort. But in the decade since its putative establishment, actual full-on adoption of the CCJ continues to lag: even though the court is actually based in Port of Spain and has judges from Trinidad and Tobago, that country has still not replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ as a court of final appeals.

(The CCJ also handles regional treaty disputes, but overall has “a paltry case load”.)

* July 15, 1994.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Trinidad and Tobago,Wrongful Executions

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