ANOTHER insane killer must be compensated by the State for an illegal presidential pardon in 2007. Justices of Appeal Nolan Bereaux, Prakash Moosai and Mark Mohammed ruled that a pardon granted to Felix James was illegal and ordered that compensation be assessed by a judge for certain breaches of his right to liberty.
James was arrested in 1971 and charged with the murder of a woman. On April 24, 1975, a jury in the Port of Spain High Court found him guilty of murder, but insane. He was ordered detained at her majesty’s pleasure. He spent eight years at the Port of Spain Prison, then another 30 at the Carrera Island Prison.
In 2003, James was transferred to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital and Justice Mustapha Ibrahim ordered he should be evaluated to see if he was suitable for release. The Psychiatric Hospital Tribunal recommended that James be released. On October 2, 2006, Ibrahim remitted the case to the Minister of National Security to determine whether James was a fit and proper person to be released.
Four reports were submitted to then Attorney General John Jeremie, all recommending James’ release, but by letter dated January 10, 2007, Jeremie decided against doing so. Jeremie wrote: “I believe that for me to make such a recommendation, I must be fully satisfied in my own mind that the applicant would not pose a threat to the citizens of this country if he were to be released.”
The President George Maxwell Richards, now deceased, acting in accordance with Section 87(1) of the Constitution, granted James a pardon dated June 30. There were conditions. James had to report to St Ann’s every six months for the next three years to be evaluated; his medical reports were to be forwarded to the President; James had to take the medication prescribed to him; and he had to live with his sisters and not possess firearms or weapons. He challenged the pardon and conditions attached but lost in the High Court and appealed. In the ruling, delivered by Bereaux, the judges found the President had no power to grant a conditional pardon, since having been found “guilty but insane” resulted in James’ being acquitted of the charge, so there was no conviction to be pardoned.
He also said the conditions that James must report to St Ann’s, live with his sisters, not possess firearms or weapons and if he failed to comply would be subject to arrest and would be detained until the President’s pleasure was known, were arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional. Last week, the Court of Appeal upheld an order for compensation for another insane killer.