Free my son
BY JADA LOUTOO Wednesday, December 11 2013
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GRIEVING mother Cheryl Pitman is appealing to Chief Justice Ivor Archie to deliver a ruling in her son, Lester’s appeal, soon.
“He is suffering. He is anxious and in pain.” She, too, is anxious and is pained.
“I am taking it on. As a mother, anyone would take it on. It is hurting that he waiting so long,” she said.
Pitman, now 33, of San Juan, was convicted on July 14, 2004, for the murders of Englishman John Cropper, Cropper’s mother, Maggie Lee, and former BBC correspondent, Lynette Lithgow-Pearson, sometime between December 11 and 13, 2001. On June 8, 2005, the death warrant was read to him, but was rescinded after it was discovered there was a pending appeal on his behalf.
Pitman issued a pre-action protocol letter to the Solicitor General’s office on November 26, threatening to file a constitutional claim against the State for the failure by Chief Justice to deliver a ruling in his appeal. He has been waiting on this ruling for the last three years and nine months.
Pitman followed up this letter with another addressed to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, threatening legal action if Archie did not give an explanation for the delay in delivering judgment in his case.
Archie and Justices Paula Mae Weeks and Alice Yorke Soo-Hon presided over Pitman’s appeal and reserved judgment on March 4, 2010.
Cheryl says her son isn’t targeting the Chief Justice, but only wants a ruling in his appeal. She had her own appeal to the Chief Justice.
“Give him a chance. Free him. I will be glad,” she said in an interview at Newsday’s offices in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
“I am depressed seeing that he is in there for so long and everybody else getting judgment and coming out yet they are keeping him in there for so long. He is suffering. I just want Mr Archie to give him a chance...give him a chance to come out and change his life. He just wants the chance,” she said repeatedly during the interview.
Pitman is still at the Condemned Section of the Port-of-Spain prison, where he has been kept since his conviction in 2004.
Cheryl recalls when the death warrant was read out to him. “I was at home when someone called me,” she said.
She immediately went to the prison. “He was looking lost...like he was far away. His eyes were red,” she recalled.
Cheryl said she prayed for her son as she had since he was arrested in 2001 and throughout his stay in prison.
“I trust God. I kept praying for him and the next day an officer told me he got a stay of execution,” she said.
As a grandmother of a nine-month old baby girl, Cheryl divides her time in her hairdressing business and looking after the baby for her daughter and this has prevented her from visiting her son as religiously as she has over the years.
“He didn’t mind. He understood. He is actually anxious to see the baby,” she said.
In 2008, the Privy Council allowed Pitman’s appeal on the basis of fresh psychiatric evidence which cast doubt on the safety of his conviction for murder and the legality of the sentence of death imposed on him and his co-accused Daniel Agard. The retrial ordered for Agard came to an end in September, with him again being convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. Pitman’s case was remitted to the Court of Appeal to consider the impact of the new medical evidence and was heard in 2010. The three appellate judges heard evidence from two British psychologists — doctors Jessica Granhan and Michael Kopelman — that Pitman’s reading age at the time was that of a six-year-old and he had the intellect of a nine-year-old. Kopelman, in his testimony, said he reviewed Granhan’s results and concluded Pitman was unfit to testify in a court of law.
Cheryl said Pitman, who had failed Common Entrance, was such a slow learner that he could not have given the coherent statement which was read out in court and which formed the basis for his conviction. She still believes he was “set up”.
“Lester was not a violent boy. I feel it in my heart, as a mother, he didn’t do it,” she said. Cheryl also believes the reason her son won his appeal at the Privy Council was because of God’s work.
“He wants to change his life. He said when he comes out he not going to be liming. He knows how that could get him caught up in bad company,”she said. “Give him a chance. Free him, I’ll be glad,” she said.
She has not given any thought about how the court will rule but admits, she does not know how she will be able to cope if they say he should remain incarcerated.
“I leave it in the hands of God,” she said.
Pitman and Agard were the first men to be sentenced to death after the Privy Council– only a week before their verdict in 2004– ruled that the mandatory death sentence read to prisoners found guilty of murder was constitutional.