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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Privy Council commutes J-Lo’s death sentence
Convicted killer Julia Esmeralda Sellier-Ramdeen alias “J-Lo” had her death sentence commuted to life in prison on Friday by three of the five Lords of the Privy Council. Ramdeen, along with David Abraham, was convicted for the 2003 killing of Carlos Phillip. Phillip, who was employed as a courier at the heliport in Couva, left his home on December 23, 2003, and attended a Christmas party at his workplace but failed to return home.
Phillip, a father of two, was killed at Ramdeen’s apartment on Jerningham Avenue, Charlieville, and his body dumped in a pond at Pokher Road, Longdenville. His vehicle was also torched. In delivering their judgment, the five Law Lords—Lords Neuberger, Mance, Kerr, Sumption and Toulson—agreed that the conviction should be upheld, despite Ramdeen’s submission that the issues of good character, provocation and the sentence of death were all reliable grounds to quash the conviction.
Ramdeen, who was represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC and Ben Silverstone submitted that the trial judge, Ian Stewart Brook, failed to properly direct the jury on her good character and he failed to address them on provocation which resulted in her sentence.
The Law Lords, in dismissing the grounds of appeal of the conviction, stated that Brook had acted well within the remit of the law not to instruct the jury on the issue of provocation since Ramdeen’s defense attorneys submitted no evidence during the trial that suggested that Ramdeen was provoked into killing Phillip.
Ramdeen’s confession statement detailed how she stabbed Phillip in the neck because he would not stop making noise before placing a plastic bag over his head when he began bleeding and wrapped him in a sheet after he stopped moving. “The Board therefore rejects all three grounds of appeal. We add that we are impressed by the way in which the judge dealt with a difficult case. In the view of the Board, the way in which he did so was fair, clear and skilful,” the Law Lords said of Brook.
On the death sentence the Law Lords were divided three to two. Lords Mance and Sumption felt that the Privy Council had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the sentencing as that particular issue should have been dealt with by either the local courts or the President. The remaining Law Lords highlighted that they exercised their powers under Section 14(2) of the Constitution to substitute a sentence of life imprisonment for a death sentence.
They argued that the appeal process had delayed the final outcome and the Appeal Court had in the past commuted mandatory death sentences to life imprisonment.