Posts filed under 'Trinidad and Tobago'

1994: Glenn Ashby, abruptly

2 comments 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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1999: Dole Chadee, crime lord

2 comments June 4th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1999, crime lord Dole Chadee hanged at the prison in Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago … to be swiftly followed by two members of his narco-trafficking syndicate, with six more of their number set to die over the succeeding 72 hours.

A big-time mover of cocaine and therefore a big man in the former British colony, Chadee — “Nankissoon Boodram” to his parents — was recognizable for a generation for his slick coiffure, mirrored shades, and greased-palm untouchability.

He greased plenty of people, too.

Maybe it was only consequence of losing the traffic’s underground turf war that made the fatal crimes politically possible to prosecute. Whatever it was, the murder outraged of a small-time cog in his network — and the cog’s sister — and their parents — outraged a public weary of rampant drug violence.

So most of his countrymen were pleased to see Chadee swing, and little wonder: this hombre was bad enough to get the chief witness against him assassinated while behind prison walls.

In fact, Chadee led an active life in the criminal underworld from the shadow of the gallows. Chadee’s own brother was kidnapped for ransom in a gangland tit-for-tat episode while the boss awaited the rope. Dole Chadee refused to have it paid, and the brother was murdered.

And there was family drama on the other side of the legal briefs, too.

The hangings were secured by the aggressive action of Attorney General — and former anti-death penalty lawyer — Ramesh Maharaj. During the very time he was getting the noose around Dole Chadee’s neck, Maharaj’s own brother was on death row in Florida (the sentence has since been reduced to life imprisonment).

There were fears (or hopes!) that the Caribbean island’s breakthrough executions could open the floodgates for “hundreds” held up by legal rigmarole and the picky oversight (pdf) of the British Privy Council. In the event, however, actual executions in Trinidad and Tobago remain a very rare phenomenon.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Organized Crime,Trinidad and Tobago

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1975: Michael X

7 comments May 16th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1975, black revolutionary Michael X was hanged for murdering an insubordinate follower.

Born Michael de Freitas to a mixed-race parentage, the future Michael X immigrated to London from his native Trinidad in 1957.

There, he quickly established a criminal niche — drugs, racketeering, prostitution. “They’ve made me the archbishop of violence in this country,” he joked. It was a background noticeably parallel to that of Malcolm X, whose naming convention he took after a 1965 meeting.

By then, our day’s subject had been swept into the contradictory whirl of the 1960’s, emerging as Britain’s “authentic voice of black bitterness”, whose networks ran the gamut from the criminal underbelly to the rich and powerful.

(He’s a fringe character in the 2008 film The Bank Job, which imaginatively posits that he ducked prosecution for a heist by threatening to expose incriminating photos of swinging royal Princess Margaret.)

Michael’s chameleon-like identity — he was raised to pass as white, and known as “Red Mike” by black nationalist compadres — meshes well with the Rorschach-blot times he lived in. Certainly there was the eloquent spokesman of black militancy. There was also, ever more predominant, the violent avatar of social breakdown.

Michael X skipped bail in England to bolt for Trinidad and an agricultural commune with an increasingly creepy bent. Eventually, two bodies turned up: Joseph Skerritt, personally murdered by a machete-wielding Michael X for refusing to attack a police station and/or general disillusionment; and (sensationally) the socialite daughter of a Tory M.P. evidently buried alive.

Michael X — now Michael Abdul Malik — still had the cachet to draw celebrity support for his clemency campaign; Angela Davis, William Kunstler and John Lennon (who had put up Michael de Freitas’s bail in some previous legal scrapes) backed the “Save Malik” committee, but to no avail.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Popular Culture,Trinidad and Tobago

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