Death row prisoner files suit against state

– says rights violated, seeking life sentence instead

Death row prisoner Lawrence Chan has filed a lawsuit against the government saying that his rights have been violated, and he is also seeking to have his sentence reduced to life imprisonment.

Chan has been on death row for 15 years. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death on December 20, 1995 by then Chief Justice Cecil Kennard.

In court papers filed by his attorney Nigel Hughes, Chan said he has lived with the threat of execution since 1995. The prisoner said he is not allowed to leave death row except for rare visits to the infirmary and occasional visits to the library.

He is seeking several orders which include: a declaration that being under the threat of execution by hanging for the period November 23, 1995 to November 23, 2010 is inhuman and/or degrading punishment and in breach of his fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 141 of the Constitution; an order directing that the sentence of death inflicted on him be reduced to a sentence of life imprisonment and a declaration that he is released immediately.

Chan said he was unable to afford counsel at the time of his trial, and alleged that he was severely beaten by the police and forced to give a confession statement. According to him, his brother John Chan, who was also charged with the murder, was called as a witness against him after the state set John free by entering nolle prosequi against him.
Chan said also that he was assigned a state counsel who was absent for the first two days of his trial. After he was convicted he appealed, but the appeal was dismissed in February 1997. He said that his attorney obtained an interlocutory stay of execution in February 2000. However, he was never informed of or invited to the deliberations of the Mercy Committee.

The prisoner also filed a complaint to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations pursuant to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In October 2005, the UN Committee issued its opinion in which it found that the state had violated Chan’s rights and recommended that his sentence be reduced to life imprisonment.

The committee gave the state 90 days to report on the steps which were taken to implement its findings; the state did not respond. Chan said he continues to hold the legitimate expectation that the state will implement the decision of the committee.

Chan said further that he is locked in his cell from 3 pm to 7 am daily and only released onto the corridor on death row. He added that he also contracted tuberculosis on death row.
In addition to Chan and his brother, Godfrey Rodrigues was also jointly charged with the murders of Raphael Seecharran and Ramong, but he died in prison.