A day after sending a matter back to the High Court for a retrial over Justice Navindra Singh’s failure to advise a jury on considering the question of self defence raised by a murder accused, the Guyana Court of Appeal yesterday remitted another one for the same reason.
Acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory yesterday morning set aside the conviction and 57-year sentence of Ravindra Paremdass, for the murder Roopram Jagdeo.
The appellate judges, as they had found on Thursday in the case of Quaison Jones who was also appealing a murder conviction, echoed yesterday that Justice Singh—who presided over both matters in the High Court, failed to put to the jury, the accused’s defence of self defence.
Delivering the ruling of the court, Chancellor Cummings-Edwards emphasized as she had done on Thursday that once the defence arises on the evidence presented, the trial judge ought to have directed the jury accordingly.
“We agree that the judge took away the defence of self defence from the jury and robbed him (the appellant) of a possible acquittal,” the chancellor said on behalf of the court, while adding, “This (self defence) was an issue for the jury to have considered.”
In the circumstances, Justice Cummings-Edwards explained that both the conviction and sentence would be set aside, thus ordering a retrial which the court said must come up for hearing at the new criminal session which commences next month.
Prosecutor Tamieka Clarke for the Director of Public Prosecutions against whom the appeal was brought, had sought to argue that the appellant was not under threat of imminent danger at the time of the incident, and therefore could not claim self defence.
Clarke had said that there had been a 1-2-minute delay between the time it was claimed that Jagdeo hit Paremdass and the latter retaliating.
It was Clarke’s contention that that lapse in time would have operated to negate the appellant being in any imminent danger at the hands of the deceased, and for which he would therefore be unable to claim self defence.
Noting, however, that the time period was not a significant lapse, and the fact that the sequence of events followed one single transaction, the chancellor said that self defence remained a live issue which the trial judge should have put to the jury.
Chancellor Cummings-Edwards surmised that if it had been a much longer lapse, perhaps by an hour or two or even a day or more, then in that scenario it could certainly be argued that self defence did not arise.
Attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin who represented the appellant, had argued that on the day in question, Jagdeo, whom he described as the “aggressor,” had gone into his client’s yard where a fight ensured between them.
Counsel said that according to the evidence presented at trial, Jagdeo threw a piece of wood at the appellant, causing him to fall to the ground.
The lawyer said that it was because of that that his client, in defending himself, hit Jagdeo with a piece of wood.
The two had an argument over a bicycle.
Paremdass had been convicted and sentenced on October 19th of 2015.
The capital indictment against him stated that he murdered Jagdeo, called “Lil Baby” and “Ribbit,” between December 20 and December 21, 2012 at Providence, East Bank Demerara.
Paremdass, through Datadin and attorney Donovan Rangiah by whom he was also represented, had complained too, that the sentence imposed by Justice Singh was severe.
A retrial having been ordered, however, the appellate court did not address this issue.
A number of other pending appeals challenging this judge’s sentencing structure which he commences at a 60-year base are currently before the appellate court for consideration.
Several attorneys have been consistently arguing that the judge’s formula is without any legal basis, while noting that no one knows the reasoning behind the 60-year commencement base.
In the circumstances, they have argued that it is arbitrary and goes against general sentencing principles.