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Convicted Murderer Rushed From Court With Chest Pains

A CONVICTED murderer's appeal hearing was cut short yesterday in the Court of Appeal when he had to be rushed to hospital.

Ellison Smith, convicted of the 1997 murder of FNM cabinet minister Charles Virgil, started wheezing and clutching his chest when the court was examining the judgments of the London-based Privy Council regarding his sentences.

Smith was seeking to have his punishment of life imprisonment reduced to a determined number of years in the hope that he could someday be eligible for early release.

He was sentenced to death for shooting and killing "Chuck" Virgil during the FNM government's campaign to return to office for a second term.

Mr Virgil's body was found in a well field behind the Bahamas Electricity Corporation on Soldier Road on February 15, 1997. Mr Virgil was accosted outside his condominium on West Bay Street and forced into his car.

Smith and Anthony Evans were convicted of the killing in 1999. At the time, hanging was the only penalty for murder.

However, the Bahamas' automatic death penalty was ruled unconstitutional by the London-based Privy Council in 2006. As a result, all convicts on death row had to be resentenced. Smith was given life imprisonment at a re-sentencing hearing in 2010.

When the appellant last appeared before the court on May 10, he was told by Justices Christopher Blackman, Stanley John and Abdulai Conteh that his appeal was of no use to him and that it would be a mockery of the appeal court.

Their reason was that he had not contested his life sentence for armed robbery, which is connected to the kidnapping and murder convictions.

Smith asked to speak and said that he had received a notice letter, which his attorney did not know about, from the Privy Council indicating that both sentences were quashed.

Prosecutor Eucal Bonaby indicating that he was unaware of this.

Justice Blackman said he would adjourn the hearing to May 16 in the interest of "fairness to all". In the meantime, these matters would be investigated.

In yesterday's proceedings, when the court was looking into the judgments from the higher court, Smith began feeling chest pains and was consequently sent to hospital.

The matter was adjourned to a date to be announced.

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