By Nico Scavella
A 48-year-old Grand Bahama native sentenced to life in prison for killing a police officer approximately 25 years ago has had his intended appeal dismissed because he waited close to seven years before he requested more time within which to contest his sentence.
Court of Appeal President Dame Anita Allen, who officially retired yesterday, and fellow Justices Stella Crane-Scott and Roy Jones dismissed Alexander Williams’ extension of time application, filed some six and a half years from the date of his conviction, after finding the delay in filing the application to be “inordinate” and thus “difficult to explain”.
The appellate judges noted that notwithstanding the length of the delay and the absence of sufficient reasons for the delay, if the prospects of success of the intended appeal are good, the court would grant an extension of time and hear the appeal, so long as there is no prejudice to the respondents.
However, the appellate judges, in a written ruling, further ruled Williams’ reasons for the delay were “neither good nor sufficient.” They also found it was “unlikely” his appeal would have “any prospect of success”.
According to the ruling, on April 4, 1993, Williams was convicted of murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm while committing a specified offence concerning the 1992 murder of Constable Truman Cooper.
Williams was 23-years-old at the time.
The evidence on which Williams was convicted was that he and another individual frequented a beach in Grand Bahama, and on the day in question went there with the intention of robbing tourists.
Williams and his cohort encountered two police officers who they held at gunpoint, and forced them to undress. Williams accidentally shot his co-accused during the incident, giving one of the officers a chance to escape.
While doing so however, that officer heard another gunshot and when he returned to where he left his partner, he found him shot in the forehead.
Upon his conviction, Williams was sentenced to death for murder, 20 years for armed robbery and four years for the firearm offence, all to run concurrently.
However, subsequent to a Privy Council declaration which ruled the mandatory death sentence for murder was unconstitutional, Williams was re-sentenced on the murder conviction by then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs to life imprisonment on February 3, 2011.
Almost six years later WIlliams, via a summons filed May 26, 2017, applied for an extension of time within which to appeal his life sentence. The summons was supported by an affidavit filed the same day and supplemented by an affidavit filed August 31, 2017.
In his affidavit, Williams claimed that within 21 days of his sentencing, he applied to the prison for an appeal form, which he received. He further claimed he gave the form to his attorney at the time and requested his assistance in filing the form in the Court of Appeal.
Some time passed, Williams claimed, before he realised he had no lawyer to proceed with his appeal and tried sending a number of criminal appeal forms to the Court in both 2012 and 2013, to no avail.
He further charged that on July 14, 2014 he was given an appeal form by a prison officer, which he filled out. He said that officer assisted him in “walking” the form out of the prison. The appellate judges noted in the ruling that the form is on their file, but it is not entered in their records as a filed document.
Williams further protested the delay wasn’t his fault and that he was left without the ability to move his appeal through the system to reach the Court of Appeal.
However, the appellate judges noted there is no record in the Court of Appeal of any criminal appeal forms pertaining to Williams in 2012 or 2013. And regarding the form WIlliams said was “walked” out of prison in 2014, the appellate judges said there is nothing on the face of the document that indicates the court received it, and neither does the court have any internal record of its filing.
Williams also submitted in his arguments on his intended grounds that the trial judge failed to “have regard to sentencing principles where the death penalty was not an option.” Specifically, the ruling said, Williams argued the trial judge had “great regard for the public interest and deterrence” and “very little regard to Williams’ prospects of rehabilitation.”
His attorney also submitted the sentencing judge “heavily weighed” Williams’ “past character” against him and thus concluded there was “no likelihood” of reform in the absence of any professional expert evidence to suggest his client was incapable of reform.
However, the appellate judges concurred that Williams’ life sentence is a “valid” one, adding Parliament has “seen fit” to prescribe it as the maximum penalty for the commission of many criminal offences, murder included, where the death penalty isn’t an option open to the sentencing judge in any particular case.
The ruling also referenced the fact Williams was, for 13 years, “deceiving” prison officials “into believing that he was a model prisoner,” when in fact he was “actively involved in drug use.” This, the ruling said, indicated to the sentencing judge that Williams was “not sufficiently reformed to justify the imposition of a determinate sentence, and a possible earlier release into society.”
Additionally, the ruling said there was “no real expression of remorse” by Williams for the crime.