Saturday, July 17, 2004

TT: Six must hang

THE two men charged with killing three people at Cascade nearly three years ago were given six mandatory death sentences yesterday afternoon. Daniel Agard and Lester Pitman, both of Upper Bushe Street in San Juan, stood still in the dock as Justice Herbert Volney, presiding in the Port-of-Spain Second Criminal Court, imposed the death sentences before a packed courtroom. It was the first time in eight months that the mandatory death sentence was imposed. Following the Privy Council decision in the Balkissoon Roodal case last November, the mandatory death sentence was ruled unconstitutional. It left judges with a discretion when it came to sentencing persons found guilty of murder. The Privy Council, however, in the Charles Matthew judgment dated July 7, reversed that decision and ruled that the mandatory death sentence was valid.

Agard and Pitman became the first persons to be handed the mandatory death sentences since that Privy Council ruling. After the sentences were passed, both Agard and Pitman were taken away by the police to the Port-of-Spain State Prison where they spent last night on Death Row. Agard and Pitman were charged with the murders of Maggie Lee, 83, John Cropper, 59, and Lynette Pearson, 51, during the period December 10 and 14, 2001 at Mount Anne Drive, Second Avenue in Cascade. The bodies of the three victims were found on the morning of December 14, 2001 in the bathroom annexed to the master bedroom of the house. They were bound and gagged and their throats had been slit. After an eight-week trial, Justice Volney summed up the case to the mixed jury yesterday. The jury retired to consider their verdicts at 3.25 pm. The jury returned at 5.01 pm.

The foreman then announced that both accused were guilty on all three counts. Agard had nothing to say when asked by the court clerk, while Pitman maintained that he was innocent. The judge then read the death sentences to both accused on each of the three accounts: “That you, Daniel Agard and Lester Pitman, having been found guilty of murder, you will be taken from here to a place of execution, and there you will suffer death by hanging.” Those shivering words were so strange to everyone since the mandatory death sentence was suspended eight months ago. The courtroom was silent until Agard’s sister Jamie and a female friend started to cry when the sentences were being imposed. They had to be escorted out of the courtroom by the police and a court marshal. Justice Volney paid tribute to the jury, especially the juror who travelled daily from Princes Town to sit on the case.

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