Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bishop Simeon Hall: The Privy Council’s recent ruling on the death penalty in the case of Maxo Tido has unwittingly said to criminals: ‘you can get away with your next crime’... it is clear that if families of murder victims are to ever have justice, The Bahamas must abandon the Privy Council...

'Abandon the Privy Council'

NG News Editor

Nassau, Bahamas

The Privy Council’s recent ruling on the death penalty in the case of Maxo Tido has unwittingly said to criminals ‘you can get away with your next crime’, according to Bishop Simeon Hall, who chaired the government-appointed National Advisory Council on Crime.

Hall said it is clear that if families of murder victims are to ever have justice, The Bahamas must abandon the Privy Council, at least for murder appeals.

One of the recommendations the Crime Council made to the Ingraham administration is to resume capital punishment.

But various Privy Council decisions over the years have set such a strict standard for the imposition of the death penalty, the government has been unable to carry out the law in this regard.

Tido was convicted of the 2002 murder of Donnell Conover. The 16-year-old was found with her skull crushed, and her body burnt.

The Privy Council said while Conover’s murder was “dreadful” and “appalling” it did not fall into the category for the worst of the worst murders and therefore the death penalty ought not apply.

“The ruling by the Privy Council raises serious questions as to what is happening,” Hall said.

“I understand to some degree the Privy Council has the last word, but certainly my big problem I’m wrestling with is what is the justice system saying to families of victims of murder, and then to persons who do the murder?

“It seems that the whole system now is lending its way to criminality. For the law lords to conclude that this was a bad murder but it’s not counted as the worst of the worst, I think it’s time for us to cry shame on the justice system.”

Conover’s mother, Laverne, who recently met with Bishop Hall on the matter, said the ruling re-opened an old wound.

“The murderers have all the rights,” said Mrs. Conover, who added that she learnt of the ruling last week via the evening television newscast.

She told The Nassau Guardian that her daughter was so mutilated she was only able to identify her by her nose.

“What I would like to know is what is the worst of the worst because murder is murder. If this is not the worst of the worst, could somebody explain to me what is the worst of the worst?”

Conover said the murder tore her whole family apart — she and her husband subsequently divorced, one of her sons is on the run from the law, and the other children have had their own emotional challenges.

She said life has not been the same since.

“When I reached the police station and they told me, I was just not myself anymore, especially when I had to go to the morgue and saw what I saw,” Conover said.

“What I saw at the morgue, I don’t know what that was because really it was not my daughter.

“I don’t know what that was because a dog’s head wouldn’t have looked the way her head looked. She had no face, one big bone sticking up, they burnt her over her body.

”How do they expect me as a mother to deal with this and to know Maxo is in prison living?”

While the Privy Council quashed Tido’s death sentence, it upheld his murder conviction and ordered that he be re-sentenced.

In 2009, the government was preparing to read a death warrant to him.

Hall pointed out that a study by Police Sergeant Chaswell Hanna noted that in a five-year period when 349 murders were recorded in The Bahamas, there were only 10 murder convictions and two death sentences issued.

“Last year was a record number of murders and I understand that we had no more than two or three convictions,” Hall said. “This disparity between criminal behavior and the justice system, is it the police, is it the lawyers, is it the justice system?”

He said the law lords of the Privy Council are clearly out of touch with what is happening in The Bahamas.

“How is this family to swallow this latest ruling?” he asked.

“...It is very difficult to remain philosophical on murder now. The criminals seem to be getting the better end of the stick and families of murder victims seem to be left — as this family — totally disintegrated.”

Hall noted that the level of violent crime has worsened in the last couple years.

“It is true that part of the problem is in fact the social culture we face as a community, but at the same time I think Parliament and the lawmakers must take draconian measures to face this nightmare we are presently confronted with,” he said.

“It is true that the current minister of national security has adopted half of the things we suggested, but it seems to be getting worse. And you feel embarrassed that you served on this thing and [crime] seems to be getting worse.”

Jun 20, 2011