A 51-year-old man from El Dorado, sentenced to death for murdering a homeless man while high on cocaine over 14 years ago, has won his appeal over his conviction.
Delivering an oral judgement in Vishnu Beharry’s appeal during a virtual hearing, yesterday morning, Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Gillian Lucky and Malcolm Holdip ruled that the judge, who presided over his trial in 2016, made several errors in summing the case up to the jury, which rendered his conviction unsafe.
Based on their decision, the appeal panel ordered that his conviction for murder be substituted to the lesser offence of manslaughter by intoxication.
The appeal panel then sentenced him to four years and nine months in prison.
Justice Lucky, who dealt with the sentencing, began with a starting point of 20 years but deducted 4 years based on the fact that Beharry had a clean criminal record when charged, his exemplary disciplinary record in prison and because he had expressed a desire to plead guilty to manslaughter before being tried and convicted of murder.
The time Beharry spent in prison before and after his conviction was also deducted from his final sentence.
In passing the sentence, Lucky warned Beharry that the court’s decision in his case was not to be taken likely.
“It does not detract from the fact that you killed a man...In sentencing, the sanctity of life must always be remembered,” Lucky said.
Lucky also advised Beharry to make use of prison programmes especially drug rehabilitation during his remaining time in prison.
“Being free does not mean that you go back to the way you lived before,” Lucky said.
Beharry’s lawyer Sophia Chote, SC, noted that her client was a cricket fanatic and suggested that he could help coach younger prisoners.
Special prosecutor Travers Sinanan, who admitted he had a similar passion for the sport, suggested that Beharry write to local cricket clubs to see if they can assist him in obtaining his coaching badges while in prison.
Beharry, of Cassie Street in El Dorado was charged with murdering Samuel Jordon on April 9, 2007, at Tocaragua Road in Caura.
Resident in the community claimed they awoke to hear two men, later identified as Beharry and Jordon, arguing near a car that was parked in the area.
One resident approached the men and Beharry, who was armed with a hatchet, who allegedly said: “This man is a thief and rapist and he needs to be punished.”
The resident suggested that Beharry call the police to deal with the situation and returned inside his house.
When the resident returned outside, the car was gone and Jordon’s body, who bore multiple chop wounds, was found at the side of the road.
When police went to Beharry’s home, he denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was liming in a bar for the entire night.
When police found blood on his clothes, he claimed that he was beaten by a group of men at the bar. He also suggested that blood that was found in the backseat of the car possibly came from someone who he gave a drop.
Pressed further, Beharry admitted that after he left the bar, he picked up Jordon and went to the location in Caura to consume cocaine.
He claimed that after he and Jordon took the drugs in the car, Jordon tried to rob him and he defended himself with the hatchet he kept below his seat.
He claimed that after chopping Jordon once, they both got out of the car and Jordon attacked him with a rock that he found at the side of the road.
He chopped Jordon several times, threw the hatchet in a patch of bushes and left.
Beharry was initially charged with murder but he was committed to stand trial for manslaughter at the end of his preliminary inquiry. He was granted bail but three years later he was again remanded after he was indicted for the higher offence.
In the appeal, Beharry’s lawyers claimed that the trial judge made note of him claiming an alibi, when he had relied on the statement in which he admitted to attacking Jordon in self-defence while intoxicated.
They noted that his statement could not be considered to be an alibi as he never said which night he was speaking about.
The judges agreed and also upheld their complaint over the failure of the judge to properly explain that he could have had the intention to kill and still rely on the defence of provocation.
They also noted that in the route to verdict document given to jurors before they deliberated, the judge failed to identify that they could have convicted him of manslaughter by way of intoxication.
Beharry was also represented by Peter Carter.