Crown Counsel Karim Nelson, on Tuesday, agreed with at least one of the grounds for appeal presented by Kay Bacchus-Baptiste on behalf of her clients Althea, Crystal and Pastor Nigel Morgan. Nelson told the Supreme Court that he agreed with the joint appellants’ Counsel that the custodial sentences imposed by Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett were excessive.
Burnett presided over the Morgan’s trial which ran for some 2 years after they were charged with one count each of causing grievous bodily harm in April 2016, to which they pleaded not guilty.
The couple, along with Crystal their daughter who was 22 years old at the time, quickly attained notoriety, when a video recording of an altercation involving all three family members and Cuthbert “Mafia’ Victory went viral. Crystal could be seen with an electric kettle in her hand pouring, what was later described as “a hot substance” on Victory. At that time Victory was in a drain engaged in a brawl with the elder Morgans. As a result he suffered, what prosecutor Karim Nelson told Tuesday’s sitting of the Supreme Court were “first degree burns. My Lords the burns were extensive in the sense of when you look at the different areas – the back, talking about the shoulders, talking about the head, face, ears. In addition to the fact that they were first degree burns, they were extensive in that sense.”
To arrive at his conclusion that the Magistrate’s custodial sentence, “in relation to Crystal” Morgan, was immoderate Nelson offered the fact that she was a “ first time offender … the Magistrate accepted that she was of good character [and] her relative youth.”
Asbert News Network questioned Crown Counsel Nelson as to the impact of the general public’s opinion on his decision making process when presenting positions that may seem out of sync with the State’s interest in any matter before the Court. Just like it seemed in this case when he tacitly agreed that Kay Bacchus-Baptiste had at least one valid reason to petition the Court to set aside two of the convictions levied by Senior Magistrate Burnett.
“I am guided by legal principle and the previously decided cases in the Court of Appeal. Not by public sentiment,” Nelson told ANN.
The legal fraternity supports the legal advocate’s stance. One practicing lawyer explained, “the prosecution represents public interest and has a duty to support the law. If he believes that the defence is correct and the judges would agree then the prosecution ought to concede. He ought not to oppose for opposing sake.”
Another learned friend of the Court posits, “the prosecutor has a job to be the representative of the Minster of Justice. His duty is neither to seek to find anybody guilty of anything but to provide the evidence as it is before the Court. So even if he’s before the Court of Appeal his job – if the Court asks him his views on the sentence, if he feels that the sentence was excessive – he has a duty to say to the Court in light of the circumstances ‘I too share the view that the sentence was somewhat excessive. If he doesn’t feel so and he tells the Court that I don’t share that view and gives the Court the reasons why he doesn’t share the view. So that is his duty to – every prosecutor’s duty to – b e as balanced as possible in presenting evidence to the Court and the circumstances.”
Bacchus-Baptiste told the presiding Judges that “the failure of the magistrate to conduct a proper sentencing hearing and the failure of the learned Magistrate to apply the law in relation to the mental element for aiding and abetting” were more than sufficient reasons on which to decide in her clients favor. Her submissions also included additional grounds.
Kay Bacchus-Baptiste fought to have Pastor Morgan and his wife’s convictions set aside and Crytal’s sentence reduced “at an outside 2 – I’d like to say 2.5 years but I say 2.5 to 3 years for her.” The Crown Counsel voiced his objections saying that the seriousness of infraction mandated higher than two and a half years incarceration. He describes Bacchus-Baptiste’s ambitious submission of a 2.5 years new sentence as being a “big leap” since “the lowest I could see is 3 years.” Prompting a chuckle from the Jurists at the numerical juxtaposition of the attending attorney’s dual propositions. As such counsel for the respondents, Karim Nelson offered the highest end of the sentencing range that was put forward by Bacchus-Browne.
Justices of Appeal Kelvin Baptiste and Mario Michel as well as Acting Justice of Appeal Anthony Webster entertained the submissions and reported “that there was no evidence on the basis of which the Magistrate could have found beyond reasonable doubt that the appellants number 1 and 2 (Mr. & Mrs. Morgan) intentionally assisted appellant number 3 (Crystal) in the commission of the offence of unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm to the virtual complainant (Mafia Victory). We’ve noted in particular the evidence where the Magistrate indicated that he believed the evidence of Clint Antoine whom the defendant number 1 described as fairly honest. In the Magistrate’s own review of the evidence of Clint Antoine, the Magistrate noted that the defendant number 1 and 2 were not holding onto the virtual complainant to restrain him. That he said they were lashing out at him not restraining him and that the virtual complainant was trying to get when Crystal poured the water from head down.
“These findings by the Magistrate and in the face of the expressed indication that he believed that evidence and was acting on it are inconsistent with the submissions of counsel for the responsedent that appellant number 1 and 2 intentionally aided and abetted appellant number 3 by holding onto the virtual complainant well appellant number 3 poured the hot water.
“We accordingly find that the convictions of appellants number 1 and 2 ought to be set aside. We believe that the convictions of appellant number 3 was fully justified on the evidence and on the findings of fact made by the Magistrate. With respect to appellant number 3 we accept the submission of Counsel for the appellants that the sentence imposed was excessive in all the circumstances and we note that Counsel for the respondents indeed conceded that and suggested that there should be a reduction in the sentence according to Counsel of no less than 3 years. Counsel for the appellant had in turn suggested that the sentence should be 2 and a half years.
“Considering all of the factors, noting the submissions of both parties the Court accepts that the sentence of 4 years was excessive in all the circumstances and considers that the appropriate sentence, all things considered, should be a sentence of 3 years imprisonment. The appeal against conviction and sentence in respect of appellants number 1 and 2 is allowed and the conviction and sentence are set aside. The appeal against conviction and sentence in respect of appellant number 3 is allowed only to the extent that the sentence of 4 years is set aside and replaced by a sentence of 3 years. The finding of guilt of the appellant number 3 is affirmed by this Court. This is the judgment of the Court in this matter.”