Remove convicted killer from death row, orders judge

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad –

A death-row inmate has been successful in his plea to the High Court to remove him from the condemned cells so he can be re-sentenced.

In a ruling on an application on Monday, Justice Frank Seepersad ordered that the sentence of death imposed on Ronald Bisnath on March 27, 2014, be vacated.

While Seepersad refused to do the resentencing himself, he ordered that the registrar of the Supreme Court should arrange for it to be done by a judge sitting in the criminal division.

He also granted the declarations Bisnath sought that any attempt to carry out the death sentence would constitute a contravention of his rights and his continued detention in the condemned cells would also be a breach.

Seepersad is expected to visit death row at the Port of Spain prison on Frederick Street, on April 20 to inspect the cells there and to get a first-hand view of the conditions of the remand section.

Ronald Bisnath, of Crown Trace, Enterprise, was sentenced to hang in 2014 for the murder of 13-year-old Parmanand “Boyo” Persad, whose body was discovered in a partially built Chaguanas house in 2006.

Persad, a student of the Chaguanas Junior Secondary School, was murdered on October 29, 2006. His body was found in the bathroom of a house at Crown Trace, Enterprise. Police said he had been beaten and his throat slit, and he had possibly been sexually assaulted. At the time, they described it as one of the more gruesome murders they had come across.

Bisnath was found hiding in some bushes close to where Persad’s body was found.

In his application for his removal from death row, Bisnath’s attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Wayne Sturge and Dayadai Harripaul submitted that their client was being incarcerated on death row in excess of the five-year limit set out in the Jamaican death-penalty case of Pratt and Morgan.

They argued he remained under the sentence of death, which cannot now be lawfully carried out, and his continued detention in a condemned cell is unconstitutional.

A similar application has been filed by another death-row inmate, Daniel Agard, which is being heard by another court.

In his ruling, Seepersad said it was evident that the State could not lawfully execute Bisnath and could advance no arguable defence on why he continued to be housed on death row and treated as if he were still subject to the death penalty.

“The State must do better and the applicant’s continued detention on death row is constitutionally unacceptable as he is being subjected to a manner of physical and emotional punishment as a death-row convict in circumstances which are now devoid of legal justification.”

Seepersad also said although he was aware of the “heinous crime” for which Bisnath was convicted, he was not going to be moved by “emotive considerations” in exercising constitutional intervention.

“The court cannot and will not be moved by emotive considerations though it is mindful that the society is confronted with unprecedented increases in murders and fear now grips almost every citizen.

“It must therefore be understood that the court’s intervention is not premised upon sympathy but is grounded on the unassailable stance that constitutional protection must be afforded to all manner of people in accordance with the law and without fear, favour, affection or ill will.

“The claimant’s continued detention on death row is unacceptable and for each day that he remains on death row there is a continuing breach of his constitutional rights.”

Representing the State were Nicol Yee Fung and Coreen Findley.

The other aspects of Bisnath’s claim will come up for hearing again on May 23.