By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE COURT of Appeal yesterday ordered a murder convict to be resentenced by the Supreme Court after they set aside the death penalty imposed on him for the murder of a policeman who was killed in the line of duty outside The Tribune.
While upholding the conviction of Mario Flowers, the appellate court was of the view that the appellant was not beyond reform, notwithstanding that the December 29, 2007 fatal shooting of Constable Ramos Williams was, in their words, “undoubtedly heinous.”
“He was 28-years-old at the time of sentencing and had only three minor unrelated previous convictions. We are convinced that in those circumstances, to impose and seek to sustain the death penalty is to discount, if not put to naught, any prospect of reform or social re-adaptation that he could prove capable of.”
“This is not to ignore the fact that it was a policeman whom he killed,” the court added, “but it could have been any civilian going to officer Williams’ aid or any innocent bystander for that matter.”
“Therefore to impose and seek to sustain the death penalty in those circumstances would, we are convinced, negate the presumption of right to life.
“The appellant is deserving of some other punishment than the ultimate.”
“It is for all these reasons that we would set aside the death penalty imposed on Flowers.”
On the early morning in question, Constable Williams, Constable Anton Curry and other officers were on patrol in a marked police car in the area of Collins Avenue near Doctor’s Hospital around 2am.
They spotted a suspicious looking group of men in a Nissan Sentra that had been parked near a container on the eastern side of Deveaux Street, across from The Tribune.
Two men got out of the car and were pursued by the police officers.
After shots were heard from the back of the container, it was discovered that Constable Williams had been shot in the chest.
In 2010, Flowers, 35, and Sylvester Aritis, 30, stood trial in connection with the murder of officer Williams and the attempted murder of his comrade, Curry.
Flowers was the only one convicted of the murder, while Aritis was convicted of the attempted murder.
Both men challenged their convictions and sentences to the appellate court after then-Senior Justice Anita Allen sentenced Flowers to death and Aritis to 20 years imprisonment.
Among the grounds of appeal filed by the convicted pair were that: there was no identification parade held and the prosecution’s failure to disclose forensic evidence, and the court’s failure to discharge a jury based on a statement made by a former suspect.
Concerning identification, the judges ruled that while there had been no identification parade, “the reason for not holding one is material circumstance.”
“Where, for example, the uncontroversial evidence is that the defendant was well known to the witness before the offence, and the witness had previously identified him, dock identification may alone be no more than a formality,” the judges noted.
“Officer Curry testified about the familial relationship that existed between himself and Mario Flowers. Accordingly, no useful purpose would have been served in holding the conventional identification parade. The alleged dock identification could not be said to have been conducted in a setting in which Curry was identifying Mario Flowers or Sylvester Aritis for the first time.”
The court noted that providing that material evidence is available to the prosecution at the time of the request, the Crown was duty bound to disclose material in indictable cases at or before the preliminary inquire.
“Breach of this duty, however, does not automatically entitle an accused person to a remedy,” the court added, further stating that the “appellants have not proven that they have suffered any form of prejudice by the failure of the prosecution to obtain forensic results.”
The judges further “failed to see how the appellants could have been prejudiced by the failure of the judge to discharge the jury and empanel a fresh one.”
“When the learned trial judge came to summing up the case, she very properly directed the jury that they must disabuse their minds of the statement made by the appellants’ former co-accused.”
The court ultimately upheld the convictions of both men and the 20-year sentence Aritis had received. However, it set aside the death penalty for Flowers and ordered that he be re-sentenced by the Supreme Court.
Jerone Roberts represented Flowers and Aritis in their appeal.
Franklyn Williams, deputy director of public prosecutions responded for the Crown.
Justices Christopher Blackman, Stanley John and Abdulai Conteh presided over the appellate proceedings.