By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LAWYER arguing a man’s appeal against a life sentence for the murder of a child was told by the president of the Court of Appeal not to mistake the court for the Prerogative of Mercy.
In yesterday’s brief proceedings in the appellate court, lawyer Roberto Reckley expressed concern that the court-ordered psychiatric evaluation for his client, Clayton Cox, did not refer to prospects for reform and possibilities of reintegration into society.
Cox was initially sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of Scottie Andrews. Andrews, 12, had returned home from school on October 4, 1994, and went to play with friends before returning home and leaving again. He did not return and three days later, he was found behind a church on Balliou Hill Road with his pants pulled down and his body partially decomposed.
According to a 12-year-old boy, who was with Andrews when they were returning home, they were intercepted by Cox who took Andrews by the neck while telling the witness to go away.
Another eye-witness testified seeing Cox leaving his house with a piece of plywood. An autopsy revealed that Andrews died as a result of severe blunt force trauma that fractured his skull.
Cox’s execution was stayed by the ruling of the London-based Privy Council in 2006 which found that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional.
In March 2010, Senior Justice Jon Isaacs re-sentenced Cox to life imprisonment, which is being appealed.
Justices Anita Allen, Stanley John and Neville Adderley are presiding over the matter.
Justice Allen, the appellate court president, asked if the psychiatrist is able to “say definitively that he’s capable of being reformed?”
Mr Reckley replied that this information was critical to the submissions that he had yet to file. He also questioned, given the court’s view, the purpose of psychiatric evaluation.
Justice Adderley noted that psychiatric evaluations were only required in matters where the death penalty was being considered.
“If the court is to determine the number of years, I’m of the view that the court should be armed with this information,” the lawyer replied.
“So what are you asking of us?” Justice Adderley then asked.
The lawyer answered: “He’s already served 16 years.”
He was interrupted by a question from Justice Allen who asked: “What does him having served 16 years have to do with the circumstances of the case and the seriousness of the offence?
“We’re not sitting here as the Prerogative of Mercy. We’re here sitting as a court of law. We’re not here to consider whether he should be released now or later. We’re here to determine whether the life sentence was appropriate given the circumstances of the offender and the offence,” she added.
Mr Reckley acknowledged the court’s point of view before he was addressed by Justice John, who said: “I think you have to give us your submissions.”
“You are asking this court to vary a life sentence but you need submissions to justify why we should do that,” Justice John added.
The matter has been adjourned to October 9 for a substantive hearing.