By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal, in a written ruling published on its website yesterday, contended there was “no torture or other aggravating factors” involved in the paid execution of Aleus Tilus to justify imposing the death penalty on the man convicted of the killing.
Ten weeks ago Justices Anita Allen, Stanley John and Abdulai Conteh overturned Anthony Clarke Sr’s death sentence and returned the matter to the Supreme Court for re-sentencing.
They did so after coming to a general consensus that “hanging is over” because of the vague threshold set by the London-based Privy Council in past rulings like Maxo Tido, whose death sentence for the brutal murder of a 16-year-old girl was ultimately overturned because the Privy Council found the murder was not “the worst of the worst.”
“The deceased (Tilus) died after being lulled by the appellant to have a sandwich with him at some establishment in Gambier,” the court’s written ruling noted, adding that Tilus had received ”three gunshot wounds.”
“(Appellant) counsel submitted that it was not a case falling within the somewhat elusive category of ‘worst of the worst’ as used by the Privy Council in Maxo Tido v the Queen 2011. As my brother Justice (Abdulai Conteh) said during the hearing of the appeal, the mere fact that it was a contract killing does not make it the worst.
“I entirely agree with him,” said Justice Allen, the Court of Appeal president, in the ruling, which was also supported by then Justice John.
During Clarke’s trial, the prosecution produced a confession statement in which the accused purportedly owned up to the murder.
He allegedly told police that he was paid “a lot of money” by a “white man”, who was not named or prosecuted, to kill Tilus because of an ongoing dispute before the Labour Board concerning Tilus’ employer.
The convict’s then-attorney, Shaka Serville, submitted that the statement was obtained through force and brutality against his client.
The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict and the prosecutor, Ambrose Armbrister, indicated the Crown’s intent to seek the death penalty.
On October 10, 2013, then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, having taken into account submissions from the prosecution, defence attorneys, probation and psychiatric reports, agreed to the Crown’s request to sentence Clarke to death.
At the November 26, 2014 substantive hearing in the appellate court, Clarke’s lawyer Romona Farquharson-Seymour was unable to convince the court the trial judge was wrong – in law – to allow four alleged confessions to be admitted into evidence before a jury.
However, the justices did agree with Mrs Farquharson-Seymour that the circumstances of the murder alone did not warrant the death penalty, notwithstanding veteran prosecutor Franklyn Williams’ submission that Clarke had shown no remorse upon his conviction or when interviewed by a psychiatrist of the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services.
“I empathise with you because there is never going to be a worst of the worst, because you’re never going to reach that threshold given that there will always be a worse case to follow,” Justice Allen said to the prosecutor.