24-year-old daughter’s sentence reduced by one year
Stories by Katherine Renton
There was no evidence before the court that Pastor Nigel Morgan and his wife Althea held Cuthbert ‘Mafia’ Victory so that their daughter Crystal could pour boiling water on him, leading to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday setting aside the 2018 convictions of the couple, but affirming the conviction of their daughter.
Magistrate Rickie Burnett, in April 2018, had sentenced Nigel, Althea and Crystal Morgan to four years in prison, having found them all guilty of unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Victory in Mesopotamia on April 9, 2016.
The decision of the Appeal Court, which set the elder Morgans free and reduced the jail sentence of Crystal from four years to three years, has been met with outrage, mainly because many people have seen a 54-second video, purportedly of the incident, which surfaced in 2016.
But such a video was never tendered into evidence in the lower court.
The video showed two adults holding Victory in their grasp in a gutter, at which time a young female walks up to them and pours the contents of a kettle onto Victory. After the pouring, the male adult in the video spanks the bottom of Victory as he ran away, saying “clear out don’t come back.”
Although it is not clear why the video was not offered as evidence at the lower court; at the time, it was reported that the person who shot the video was not available.
A legal expert has noted that the court considers a video to be a “document”, and there are procedural requirements, evidentiary issues, issues of law, and chain of custody issues that must be considered.
Therefore, the Justices of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC) who had flown in for Court of Appeal this week, and who heard the matter, were working mainly on the basis of the evidence from the witnesses in the case.
The Justices were particularly convinced by the submission of Morgans’ attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste that there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Nigel and Althea saw their daughter coming with the kettle, and therefore had an intention to aid and abet her in the act.
“This incident did not begin in the gutter, where the water was poured, it was one continuing incident, based even on the prosecution’s case,” Bacchus-Baptiste stated, adding, “It started in the road, when, regardless of who attacked who, there was a fight…and when they got to the gutter all three of them were fighting.”
“They were in the gutter still fighting, even on the words of (Victory), when (Crystal) came, unbeknownst, not summoned by…there is no evidence to support that the defendants knew she was coming,” the attorney informed.
She claimed that the only evidence, by way of cross examination, was the neighbour of the Morgans, Clint Antoine, who said Nigel looked in the direction from which Crystal was coming.
‘Looking in the direction’ “is not cogent enough to show that it was a deliberate look for the deliberate intention that it is necessary to prove aiding and abetting. And that is the big problem I have with the magistrate’s (Rickie Burnett) finding my lord,” Bacchus-Baptiste concluded.
Justice Davidson Kelvin Baptiste commented that it was difficult to resist this submission. However, he asked if there wasn’t evidence one of them had said “bring the ting” or something similar.
Bacchus-Baptiste said that the evidence was that the “ting” was a bottle of olive oil to pray.
More questions ensured, and Bacchus-Baptiste also commented that the basis upon which the magistrate found Nigel and Althea were aiders and abettors was his finding that they held on to ‘Mafia’ so that water could be poured.
“Is there any evidence to support his (the magistrate’s) finding that they held him so that water could be poured?,” Justice Paul Anthony Webster questioned.
“No milord…they were holding him before she came,” Bacchus-Baptiste insisted.
“But they continued to hold him after she came. Isn’t that evidence that the magistrate could have inferred that they were holding him so that water…or whatever…could be poured on him?,” Webster countered.
“It is not completely perverse, but it is not beyond the reasonable doubt, the standard that is required for a criminal matter,” Bacchus-Baptiste returned. She also pointed out that the parents received burns to their body as well.
Separately, on the matter of the four-year prison sentence Crystal received, the lawyer noted that it was excessive. She believed a two and a half year sentence, or a three year term at the maximum would be appropriate. The lawyer mentioned Crystal’s relative youth, as she was 22 years at the time, and still a student at the University of the West Indies, albeit on break for illness.
Crown counsel Karim Nelson was called upon to respond, and he commented that two and a half years was a big leap downwards. “The lowest I could see is three years,” he stated.
When asked about the aggravating circumstances Nelson noted that the burns were first degree burns, and had extended to multiple places on Victory’s body.
On the other matter, concerning whether there was intention to aid and abet, Nelson submitted that Clint Antoine had demonstrated how the parties were positioned to the magistrate at the time.
“The magistrate had the benefit of seeing where these parties were positioned and the learned magistrate could have drawn certain inference in terms of whether or not” there was intentional assistance, he said.
However, the Justices disagreed, saying this point was ‘demolished’ by the magistrate’s own review of Antoine’s evidence.
Justice Mario Michel commented, “He (the magistrate in reviewing Antoine’s evidence) said they were lashing him (Victory), not restraining him.”
In delivering the ruling, Justice Michel stated, “The court accepts the submission of counsel for the respondent (Kay Bacchus-Baptiste) that there was no evidence on the basis of which the magistrate could have found beyond reasonable doubt that the appellants number one and two(Nigel and Althea) intentionally assisted appellant number three (Crystal) in the commission of the offence of unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm to the virtual complainant(Victory).”
He said they noted in particular, where the magistrate said he believed the evidence of Antoine, and his review of the evidence of Antoine.
Therefore, the court set aside the convictions of Nigel and Althea. However, they reaffirmed that Crystal’s conviction was “fully justified”.
Crystal’s sentence “in the circumstances” was found to be excessive, and reduced to three years incarceration.
Consequently, Nigel and Althea were free for the first time since they received four-year jail sentences at the end of April, 2018 and Crystal has three months remaining on her sentence.