By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LAWYER’S request for additional time to prepare her client’s appeal against conviction and the death sentence for a paid execution, drew the ire of Court of Appeal judges yesterday.
While granting a seventh – and final – adjournment in the case of Anthony Clarke Sr the judges voiced their general displeasure with the constant requests by lawyers for delays at the expense of the appellants. “The public is complaining about the delays. This court is here every day, ready and willing to hear the appeals,” Justice Anita Allen said.
Romona Farquharson-Seymour, who now represents Clarke, a death row inmate, had told the appellate court that she had only received the trial transcripts two weeks prior to the proceedings.
She asked for an additional two weeks to complete her canvassing of the documents given that she was also in a trial and was preparing for another substantive, but unrelated murder appeal hearing before the court on October 15.
“You took them on and you need to do whatever you need to do. That is the life of counsel, of an advocate” Justice Allen said, adding that someone with her experience in criminal cases should not need more time.
“On your scale of priorities, this case should rank higher,” added Justice Abdulai Conteh, who noted that “if I were in your shoes, this would be my priority regardless of the outcome.”
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour accepted the court’s criticisms and “humbly would ask for an adjournment.”
Justice Allen noted that there had been six adjournments already “and this would be the seventh.” When Mrs Farquharson-Seymour sought to put up a defence, Justice Allen interjected: “I’m not saying they’ve been related to you, but this matter has been before this court since last year.”
“It will be the last adjournment,” the lawyer said, apologising again. Her request was granted and the matter was put off to November 12.
Clarke intends to contest his conviction and ultimate punishment concerning the September 16, 2011, murder of Aleus Tilus. During Clarke’s trial, the prosecution produced a confession statement in which Clarke purportedly owned up to the murder.
He allegedly told police that he was paid “a lot of money” by a man, who was not named, to kill Tilus because of an ongoing dispute before the Labour Board, concerning Tilus’s employer.
The convict’s attorney, Shaka Serville, submitted that the statement was obtained through force and brutality against his client.
The jury returned an unanimous guilty verdict and the prosecutor, Ambrose Armbrister, indicated the Crown’s intention to seek the death penalty.
On October 10, 2013, Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, having taken into account submissions from the prosecution and defence attorneys and the probation and psychiatric reports, agreed to the Crown’s request to sentence Clarke to death for Tilus’s murder.
Clarke had applied to the Court of Appeal for an extension late last year, having missed his 21-day deadline to appeal his murder conviction and death sentence.
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour is his third lawyer since his sentencing.