The student constables, who will graduate later this month, were concerned that due to failures in the justice system the wrong man might be sent to the gallows after being found guilty in the nation’s courts.
Nadia Deans, Donovan Lewis Jnr, and Dwain Greves all stated their support for the death penalty but Julian Reid did not share their views.
The four were guests at the weekly Monday Exchange meeting of Observer reporters and editors at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.
“We have some criminals who are becoming very modern in their style of killing. The death penalty, for me, I would support but with a justice system that is fluent. There is no backlog, there is no injustice… I would go with it. I believe that in order for us to curb the crime situation we have to implement measures that will either curb these criminal thugs or stop them in their tracks. However, we would want to see more free flow in our justice system,” Greves said.
Deans was in support of her batchmate’s view on the contentious issue.
“I am in support of it also, but with a proper justice system because we would not want to know that you have sent the wrong person to death without a proper justice system. What if they are not guilty of the offence?” she asked. “You would not want to send somebody to death for that. So I do believe that once the justice system is fixed, it should be fine.”
In 2008, the upper and lower houses of Parliament voted to retain the death penalty on the Jamaican law books but no executions have been carried out in the country since 1988 despite the fact that the gallows at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre is kept in working order by prison authorities.
Lewis seemed indifferent as he pointed out that he was sworn to uphold the law.
“Whether or not I believe in it is neither here nor there,” he said. “Whether or not it is necessary… I think that is dependent on the House and whatever the House of Parliament decides, that will stand and I have to abide by that.”
Human rights activists have long called for the death penalty to be erased from the nation’s law books, citing it as an inhumane, primitive practice and student constable Reid seemed to be in agreement with that view.
“I don’t know if that will be a solution to our problems,” she said. “With the justice system having its weaknesses and its flaws, and there are other social problems that must be addressed before we really take that stand or go in that direction.”
There are more than a dozen persons on death row in Jamaica. The last person to be sentenced to death was 23-year-old Andre Reid, who was found guilty of plotting the murders of two of three women in Greenwich Town, St Andrew in 2005.
The three women were gang raped before they were shot and their bodies dumped in a septic pit on Marcus Garvey Drive. However, one of the women survived the ordeal, managed to escape and later gave evidence against Reid and three of his cronies who were all sentenced to 35 years.