Two overturned convictions handed down by the Supreme Court here freed Nigel and Althea Morgan of their custodial sentences, with immediate effect. Crystal, their daughter, also benefitted from their joint appeal which the Supreme Court entertained on Tuesday. Her four years sentence was reduced to 3 as ordered by the presiding Justices of Appeal Davidson Kelvin Baptiste and Mario Michel as well as Acting Justice of Appeal Paul Anthony Webster.
“We can sue for false imprisonment, you know? We can sue but I never advise people to do it because you went through a trial and that is how the system is, you know? In some countries you can sue and seek for compensation but I will not encourage it … because they were convicted. That’s why they were in jail, from the conviction and then the appeal take so long to come off.”
Veteran defense attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste was at the time speaking in an exclusive Asbert News Network interview, hours after her successful appeal of the local Supreme Court on Tuesday. The case spanned several years since it first appeared on the official Court roster in April 2016.
Back then, Pastor Nigel Morgan along with his wife and daughter Althea and Crystal Morgan were jointly charged that they did “unlawfully and maliciously inflict grievous bodily harm” on Cuthbert “Mafia” Victory. Victory suffered, what Crown Counsel Karim Nelson described to the Court on Tuesday as, “first degree burns … extensive in the sense of when you look at the different areas – the back, talking about the shoulders, talking about the head, face, ears.”
Two years later, around the anniversary of their arraignment, the Morgan’s were summarily convicted of the charge brought before Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett. Each family member was slapped with a 4 years sentence, which they began serving immediately.
The entire affair – the inciting incident through to the ensuing trial – was widely consumed by media audiences locally and across the Vincentian Diaspora. Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, I-Witness News reported, “immediately informed the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court that she would appeal and apply for a stay of execution of the sentence until the appeal is heard” when the Senior Magistrate imposed his sentences. Under the local criminal codes the charge carries a maximum sentence of 7 years incarceration.
Bacchus-Baptiste cited her clients’ interests as her primary concern even as she was being offered an opportunity for further adjournment at Tuesday’s sitting of the High Court. At the time the 3 member panel presided by Justice of Appeal Davidson Kelvin Baptist showed some concern when Bacchus-Baptiste announced that her presentation may be somewhat retarded since she was only served with the respondents’ submission the previous Friday. This retardation, she was certain, only impacted on her submission insofar as she could not afford the time to respond to their submissions in writing.
Bacchus-Baptiste who is also a Senator for the main Opposition Party here again exclusively told ANN that the Morgan’s appeal was heard in a “probably reasonable” amount of time – “look at our [New Democratic Party filed Election] Petitions we are yet to get our appeal before the Court.” She was mindful that “it takes a long time to put the records together. And that’s why even though I was served only on Friday with this [respondents’ submissions] I didn’t want to adjourn it because look what would have happened they would have stayed in jail ‘til September. So it’s a good thing I went ahead even though I was not fully prepared to take on their arguments but I figured I could have won it on my own submissions. You know, without having to bother too much with theirs and the Court almost didn’t ask them for their submissions any way. Because the Court was just convinced, so they really didn’t have to call on him but they were gracious they allowed him to say what he had to say.”
Which was in essence that the respondents “were of the view that there was indeed sufficient evidence upon which the learned Magistrate could have made the finding that appellants 1 and 2 aided appellant 3.” Crown Counsel Nelson cited R v Jogee case law in support of his submission that there was “indeed evidence of intentional assistance” – one of the factors that should be satisfied when attempting to prove that the elder Morgan’s aided and abetted their daughter as she scalded Victory on that fated April 2016 morning.
Due to the “benefit of [an in Court] demonstration by the witness Clint Antoine” Nelson pressed, “the learned Magistrate could have drawn some inferences….”
Crown Counsel Nelson read from Court records saying, “the Court makes a note that the witness demonstrated how the VC was held – one on both sides – defendant number 3 poured water like that, VC back turned to both of them. So my Lords the submission that I am making is that the learned Magistrate had the benefit of seeing the witness demonstrate the position that the parties were in when this liquid was poured, this hot liquid was poured, water was poured on the virtual complainant.”
Earlier in her application Bacchus-Baptiste rubbished Senior Magistrate Burnett’s handling of certain elements of the Morgan’s trial. She claimed that the verdict was “therefore perverse” and that the Magistrate displayed partiality as parts of his notes captioning statements by Clint Antoine, the witness for the prosecution, were emphasized by bold and capitalized words. The defense attorney also contended that Senior Magistrate Burnett did not do a good job recording what she described to be “glaring inconsistences” in the prosecution’s case and as such misrepresented the case put forward by her team.
The Justices agreed with her to some extent as the sum result of her efforts netted the elder Morgan’s their freedom. In passing the judgment Justice of Appeal Mario Michel told the Court, “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.”
Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste also availed herself of the opportunity to respond to critics who claim Tuesday’s successful litigation could turn out to be the Achilles heel of her political aspirations. She is currently campaigning to secure her seat as Member of Parliament for West St. George – presently held by the Unity Labour Party. This may have prompted one observer to ask “how can she go on an NDP platform in Marriaqua now?” referencing the fact that the Morgan’s were more or less ostracized in their Hopewell, Mesopotamia hometown.
To this the celebrated litigator responded, “why can’t I go? Are they going to lynch the Court of Appeal? I am a professional. I do my work. I am good at my work. Any one of my detractors who may have a problem or [any of] their close family should have a problem, would not like me to compromise their case for my political success.”