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Have mercy on my son

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Pitman's mom denies CJ conspiracy...
Cheryl Pitman, mother of death row inmate Lester Pitman (inset), on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, after an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE

The mother of convicted murderer Lester Pitman yesterday pleaded with Chief Justice Ivor Archie to have “mercy” on her son, who has been behind bars for 12 years awaiting final justice. A petit 52-year-old Cheryl Pitman, of Upper Bushe Street, San Juan, said her third son, who turned 34 in August, had the intelligence of a child and had no intention of ousting the Chief Justice from office when he took the unprecedented step to initiate legal action which threatened to impeach Archie to get judgment in his case.



“I just want the Chief Justice to have a little mercy,” she said in an interview at Guardian Media Limited’s St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, offices. Pitman, a hairdresser and mother of six, said her son was “suffering due to the delay.” She said it was the frustration over the delay which had driven him to escape from death row at the Frederick Street prison on December 9, 2012.


The convict’s dash for freedom was short-lived, however, as he was held by prisons officers a short distance from the jail. His mother claimed that her son’s left ankle and nose were broken after he was captured. 



On June 8, 2005, the death warrant was read to him and the hangman stood ready for the execution, but the process was rescinded after it was discovered there was a pending appeal before the Privy Council in London. It was later revealed that Norton Jack, now a High Court judge, had erroneously advised then attorney general John Jeremie that Pitman had no pending appeal.


“When they read the death warrant I was in a state of shock,” Pitman said yesterday, adding, however, that she relied then and continues to trust “in my faith in God” to do something good for her son. Asked whether she thinks society could have any sympathy for her son, who was convicted of the brutal killing of three people, she responded, “I know that is the question people would be asking. I can’t answer that.”



Killer with child’s IQ 
Pitman was convicted in 2004 of the Cascade triple murders. John Cropper, 59, his mother-in-law Maggie Lee, 68, and sister-in-law Lynette Lithgow-Pearson, 57, were found dead by police on December 13, 2001, and the Appeal Court reserved its decision in his case in November 2009. “Whatever the judgment is I would accept, but I hope for the best. This is not a move to get the Chief Justice out of office. People should have mercy for Lester because his IQ is very low. He thinks like a child.”


The Privy Council remitted Pitman’s appeal to the local Appeal Court in 2010 to investigate the safety of his conviction, based on new evidence surrounding his mental capacity. The ruling noted that Pitman’s intellect warrants a “proper investigation,” since the conviction is “potentially unsafe and requires a review” in light of new forensic reports. 



Yesterday, Pitman said when her son was just about three years old, he fell over a wall in her yard and hit his head. The injury was so severe he had to wear a body cast as he recuperated from the head and neck injury. Doctors then diagnosed him with a permanent brain injury and told his mother he would be a slow learner.



Pitman said her son failed the then Common Entrance exam at the San Juan Boys’ RC School and did odd jobs around the village to earn a living. “My hope is to see him come out and live a normal life and turn to God,” the single mother said. Pitman, through his team of attorneys, filed a pre-action protocol letter on November 25, claiming that his constitutional rights were being infringed by the three-year-and-nine-month delay by the Appeal Court to give its decision in his case.


Archie, along with Justice of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes and Alice Yorke Soo-Hon, reserved their decision in March 2010 and Pitman’s action has triggered an avalanche of complaints relating to the slow pace of delivery of justice. The Appeal Court is scheduled to deliver Pitman’s decision next Wednesday. “Why this long delay? Usually a judgment supposed to come out in less than a year, four years is too long,” Cheryl Pitman said.


“I just hope Mr Archie don’t take this personally and hold it against him.” In December 2009, Pitman was awarded $147,000 by the State for injuries he sustained at the hands of prisons officers in November 2008. 



Pitman yesterday filed a Freedom of Information request before Registrar of the Supreme Court, Marissa Robertson, seeking to get a list of all the outstanding judgments from Archie and the dates upon which they were reserved. Another FOI request was made by attorney Naveen Maraj seeking a list of all the outstanding judgments of the Appeal Court and the dates they were reserved.


Archie on Monday summoned the judges of the Supreme Court to a meeting at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, where the issue of delays in delivering judgments was discussed at length. Archie reportedly told judges he believed the campaign in the press against him was aimed at pressuring him out of office.


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