A YOUNG Saint Lucian lawyer has played a pivotal role in assisting the Saint Kitts-Nevis Crown Prosecution Service win big at the London based Privy Council which remains the final Court of Appeal for most of the English speaking Caribbean Countries, New Zealand, Mauritius and Hong Kong among others.
Giovanni James, son of Vernantius and Lucilla James of Desruisseaux, Micoud and former Corporal of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force who served as Crown Counsel at the DPP’s Office in Saint Lucia, was part of a team which included Travers Sinanan of Trinidad with Messrs Myers Fletcher & Gordon as instructing solicitors, all defending the Crown against the appeal by Travis Duporte of St. Kitts.
In 2006, Duporte was convicted for the murder of Sattora (Shakabee) Williams in 2004. The murder trial was presided over by Justice Francis Belle who currently sits as High Court Judge in St Lucia.
On 11 February 2014, Duporte was granted leave by the Privy Council to appeal against his conviction on the following grounds: the admission of evidence concerning a gun at trial; the admission of evidence concerning a confession at trial; and/or the way that identification evidence was dealt with at trial and the cumulative effect of these grounds.
Sattora Williams was shot and killed on 28 June 2004. The appellant was convicted of the murder of Williams and sentenced to death on 20 July 2006. The appellant appealed both the conviction and the sentence of death. The OECS Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction but allowed it against the sentence of death. The OECS Court of Appeal proceeded to substitute the sentence of death with one of life imprisonment. The appellant further appealed to the Privy Council against his conviction.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council hearing Duporte’s appeal comprised Lord Kerr, Lord Sumption, Lord Hughes, Lord Hodge and Sir Nigel Davis
The appeal held on Monday 16 March 2015 was streamed live via the Privy Council website. Following a little over an hour of oral submissions by James Wood Q.C, for the appellant, the Law Lords retired for approximately five minutes but returned to inform the Court that they did not wish to hear oral submissions in response by Counsel for the respondents. The effect of their decision is that at half time, they had been thoroughly satisfied with the written submissions of the respondents and did not wish to hear them further. In the circumstances, the respondents represented by Sinananand James had successfully defended the appeal.
Sinanan who appeared as lead counsel for the respondents took the opportunity to go on record to officially thank Giovanni James for his sterling work in single-handedly preparing the respondent’s written submissions in response. He informed the Court that he had been involved in a murder trial and that the task of preparing the written response to the appeal was left entirely to James to handle.
James has and continues to show a promising future in criminal litigation. He is perhaps one of the youngest barristers in age and years of call in St Lucia and perhaps the OECS to appear as counsel before the Privy Council. James continues to excel in his work and hopes to make his family and St Lucia proud. He attributes his success to God. When asked about how he felt about appearing before the Privy Council so early in his career, he simply responded “God is good all the time. And all the time God is good.”