Vincent Leroy Edwards and Ricardo Orlando Haynes (aka Richard Haynes) have been acquitted of a 2006 murder in Barbados by the Caribbean Court of Justice. On July 25, 2017 the CCJ ruled their uncorroborated alleged confessions to police were insufficient evidence to prove they committed the crime, and ordered their release from Barbados’ death row.
Damien Alleyne was shot to death while walking alone in Deacons, Barbados on the night of August 11, 2006. The police found no witnesses to the shooting.
Sometime after the shooting Vincent Edwards was questioned by police, but he denied knowing anything about the shooting and he wasn’t taken into custody.
Almost a year later, on July 19, 2007 Edwards and Richard Haynes were separately interrogated by the police about Alleyne’s death without a lawyer being present. The interrogations were not audio or video recorded. The police arrested both men, claiming they made oral admissions of guilt. However, there was no evidence they had done so apart from the claim of the police officers present: they didn’t sign anything admitting guilt, and they both denied saying anything incriminating.
Two days later, on July 21, 2007, Edwards and Haynes were charged with murder — which in Barbados carries a mandatory death sentence.
The two men were jailed for almost six years while awaiting trial.
During their jury trial in June 2013 the prosecution didn’t introduce any physical, forensic or eyewitness evidence linking either Edwards or Haynes to the crime. Their case was solely based on the police officers testimony that both men admitted their involvement in Alleyne’s murder. The trial judge allowed the officers to refresh their memories by reviewing what they said they wrote in their notebooks about the interrogations.
Andrew Pilgrim, the lawyer for Edwards and Haynes, presented no evidence in their defense. Instead he argued to the judge that the prosecution’s “case was too weak to be left to the jury as it was based solely on the alleged oral statements of the defendants which were uncorroborated and unacknowledged. He lamented the fact that the Government of Barbados had been slow to proclaim section 72 of the Evidence Act (sometimes referred to as,“the Act”) which requires the use of video or sound-recordings whenever an accused gave a confession. He submitted that in the face of such a weak statutory framework, it was the duty of the trial judge to guard against unreliable evidence and to withdraw a case from the jury where the only evidence was an unacknowledged, uncorroborated and disputed confession.”
After the judge ruled against dismissing the charges, Edwards and Haynes each made a statement in the presence of the jury that they did not confess to the police.
The judge told the jury that in the absence of independent corroboration, it was possible the police witnesses fabricated the confessions.
After the jury convicted Edwards and Haynes, the judge imposed the mandatory death sentences.
The Barbados Court of Appeal affirmed their convictions on July 9, 2015.
They then appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In November 2015 the CCJ remanded their case back to the Barbados COA to consider the issue of the unconstitutionality of the mandatory death penalty in Barbados for murder, which they raised for the first time in their appeal to the CCJ.
The Barbados COA appeal decided the death penalty was constitutional, and Edwards and Haynes again appealed to the CCJ. Their appeal was based on the insufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence to prove their guilt.
On July 25, 2017 the CCJ quashed the convictions of Edwards and Haynes. The Court ruled their “unacknowledged and uncorroborated” confessions were insufficient evidence to sustain their convictions. The Court’s ruling also established the precedent that in Barbados the sole evidence of an uncorroborated confession to police would no longer be sufficient to support a conviction. The Court stated in its ruling:
“In the present case, because there was no electronic verification of the alleged confessions by the accused and there was no independent corroborating evidence of their guilt, we have concluded, with some reluctance, that the convictions of the appellants cannot stand; that on its entirety, the evidence was such that the case ought not to have gone to the jury.
For all of the foregoing reasons, we conclude that under the criminal justice system of Barbados, it is not permissible for a person charged with an offence to be convicted of that offence in circumstances where the only evidence against him is an unsigned and otherwise unacknowledged and uncorroborated confession which the prosecution allege was made to investigating police officers whilst in police custody but which he denies making. Something more is required either in the way independent verification that the admission was actually and voluntarily made, or in the way of other evidence that independently corroborates or otherwise points to the guilt of the accused.
…. We agree that the no-case submission ought to have been accepted and the case withdrawn from the jury. The convictions must therefore be quashed.
Click here to read the Caribbean Court of Justice’s ruling in Vincent Leroy Edwards and Ricardo Orlando Haynes,  CCJ 10 (AJ) (Carib. Ct. of Justice, 7-25-2017)