1995: Franklin Thomas, David Thomas, and Douglas Hamlet, the last in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

1 comment February 13th, 2018 Headsman

Early on Monday, February 13 in 1995, the eastern Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines carried out a surprise triple hanging.

Brothers Franklin and David Thomas, and Douglas Hamlet, all condemned for murders, went to SVG’s gallows with no more than a weekend’s notice.

Both executions, effected during the brief mid-1990s death penalty spasm in the region, were troubling. In the case of the Thomases, this speedy execution appeared designed to balk the men of their right of appeal to the British Privy Council (SVG is a Commonwealth country). Hamlet, for his part, was noosed by a single questionable eyewitness whose testimony he always disputed. Human rights organizations were “appalled” by the circumstances of the executions, including their near-secrecy.

As of this post’s writing, these are the most recent hangings in SVG’s history.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,St. Vincent and the Grenadines,Wrongful Executions

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1996: Thomas Reckley, the first in Bahamas in 12 years

Add comment March 13th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1996, Thomas Reckley was hanged in the Bahamas for a 1989 Nassau drug murder.

This execution was noteworthy as the first in 12 years in the Bahamas.*

It was also notable as the first since the British Privy Council’s 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling. That decision held that keeping a condemned prisoner awaiting the gallows for more than five years constituted “cruel and inhumane treatment” sufficient to invalidate the death sentence.

In an uncomfortable holdover from the Empire, the Privy Council was then and still remains today the court of last resort for Commonwealth countries in the region. Therefore, Pratt and Morgan had the effect of making death sentences extremely difficult to carry out: the Privy Council itself dilated appeals (or at least, this was what irritated tough-on-crime types said), and also asserted a human rights standard requiring expedited appeals. In 1994, Trinidad & Tobago squared the hemp circle by hanging Glenn Ashby six days before the deadline even though his last Privy Council appeal was still pending. (It was granted … but too late.)

Sentenced to death on November 7, 1990, Reckley was clearly past the five-year pole when the Bahamas decided to hang him. (He’d received five stays of execution in his time.) This execution appears to be the first in the Caribbean that would fail to meet the Pratt and Morgan test.

* The last previous was William Armbrister on April 10, 1984, capping a period in the 1970s and early 1980s when the Bahamas saw routine hangings every year or two.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Bahamas,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder

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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.

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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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1998: David Wilson

Add comment July 20th, 2010 Headsman

Just after dawn this date in 1998, David Wilson was hanged for murdering a security guard in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Wilson was only the second person executed by the tiny Caribbean nation since it achieved independence in 1983, and he would be the last hanged there until 2008.

The execution of this run-of-the-mill criminal attracted particular attention as a hempen protest against death penalty skeptics on the bench of the British Privy Council. Especially in the 1990s (and since) the exercise by this high court of the commonwealth of an excessively persnickety supervision of Caribbean death sentences attracted regional backlash against colonial meddling for hampering local response to violent crime. (See also the contemporaneous Trinidad and Tobago case of Dole Chadee.)

Wilson was controversially hanged before he submitted his appeal to the Privy Council.

In a bid to shore up national sovereignty, Caribbean countries were even then hammering out a Caribbean Court of Justice to replace these distant and unaccountable magistrates. However, official adoption of the CCJ has been halting.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Occupation and Colonialism,St. Kitts and Nevis

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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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