By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
(Basseterre, St. Kitts) -It was business as usual on Dec. 19; the hustle and bustle of people going to work was not slowed, but there were whisperings that Charles “Al” LaPlace was hanged at 8 a.m. Mr. LaPlace was convicted of stabbing his wife of 10 years, Diana LaPlace, to death on February 12, 2004, at Fig Tree, Sandy Point. He was sentenced to death in 2006. The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer received a press release from the Communication’s Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister after Mr. LaPlace had already faced the gallows. “St. Kitts and Nevis Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Dennis Merchant, is expected to make a statement in the National Assembly Friday morning (Dec.19) on the Federation’s first execution by hanging in 10 years,” the press release stated. The statement was made during the continuation of the 2009 Budget Debate which started on December 16. However, the Attorney General did not make a statement as was said by the press release. The statement on Mr. LaPlace’s execution was made by Prime Minister Douglas in his address to the House. “A notice of appeal was filed with the Court of Appeal and dismissed on the 29th October 2008 for being filed out of time. There was no further application of appeal in this matter, therefore no pending application or hearing or restraining order in respect of this matter and so in accordance with the Constitution of the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis, the meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Prerogative of Mercy was convened, and advised the carrying out the sentence of the aforementioned court laid on the 30th March, 2006,” Dr. Douglas said in part of his statement.” The press release stated that a prison order was placed on the door of the prison but didn’t indicate when it was placed there. The prison order was unbeknownst to most people, who would have been busy going about their daily routines. “Pursuant to the warrant under the Hand and Seal of His Excellency the Governor General of the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis, dated the 15th day of December 2008, the sentence of death pronounced at the Circuit Court on the 28th day of February 2006 on Charles Elroy LaPlace will be carried into execution within the walls of the Prison in the town of Basseterre in the island of St. Christopher on the Friday 19th December 2008 at 8 o”clock in the forenoon,” a statement posted on the prison gate stated Thursday, the press releases said. “I want to make the point that as long as the Mercy Committee meets, sits and reviews the cases that come before it, the Mercy Committee has been very adamant that it will carry out the sentence of death once it is appropriately advised and that it has no serious technicalities in the case before it,” Prime Minister Douglas said. “Mr. Speaker, I believe that we are trying our best and we are having successes. There are challenges and we will not show any mercy in areas where there is no need to show mercy,” he said. In an age when human rights groups are strongly opposed to capital punishment, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the opposition party are strongly supportive of the laws governing capital punishment. Amnesty International deplored the hanging of David Wilson, which was the last hanging in the Federation. Mr. Wilson was hanged on July 20, 1998. He was convicted of murder in 1996 in a group attack that left a security guard dead in 1994. “What is alarming is that the execution of David Wilson took place despite the fact that he had not yet appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which acts as the final court of appeal for St. Kitts and other Caribbean Commonwealth States,” a letter from Amnesty International dated July 20 said. In the face of an escalating crime rate that has placed the Federation in the unenviable position of having the second highest murder rate per capita in the world after El Salvador, the government is seeking ways to send a strong message that crime and especially murder, will not be tolerated.” The Federation has recorded 23 murders for 2008; in 2007 there were 16 murders and in 2006 there were 17. Presently six men are on death row at Her Majesty’s Prison while another awaits his sentencing. On July 15, Justice Albert Redhead sentenced Romeo “Buncum” Cannonier, Ruedeney “Denny” Williams, Louis “Tooloo” Gardener, and Sheldon “Hatcher” Isaac to be hanged for the murder of Gavin “Magilla” Gilbert, who was gunned down at his home in Saddler’s Village on March 21, 2005. Others on death row include Mr. Evanson Mitchum, sentenced on September 23, 2001 and Mr. Travis Duporte, sentenced on July 20, 2006. Mr. William Benjamin awaits sentencing for the murder of Michelle Weekes-Benjamin, who was smothered to death in October 2006. Mr. Benjamin’s sentencing was due to be heard on December 17 after a social and psychiatric report but had to be deferred because the psychiatric report was not ready for submission.