Glenford Baptist still awaits fate

Posted: Friday, December 18th, 2015. 9:05 p.m. CST

Glenford BaptistBy Aaron Humes: A sentencing hearing was scheduled today for Glenford Baptist, who earlier this year was removed from death row but still does not know how much longer he will remain behind bars if at all.

Baptist has been incarcerated since 2001, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Azrin White. But his sentence of death by hanging was quashed after Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin found that the sentence would be cruel and unusual if instituted now.

The Chief Justice today considered in-person testimony from two speakers on Baptist’s behalf, concentrating on his rehabilitation.   Life imprisonment is still on the table for Baptist as noted in court by the CJ, who said that he must look at the role Baptist played in White’s murder.

Nuri Muhammad was first to take the stand, speaking of his work with Baptist going back to 1997, when he was a first-time offender for an offence not related to his current conviction.

Muhammad said that his next contact with Baptist was when he became the Director of the Rehabilitation Program at the prison, and more recently they have interacted as teacher and student at the prison for the last ten years, as well as religious leader and convert to Islam in a separate program done twice a week.

Muhammad testified that Baptist is a very sensitive person and caring individual and that he stands out among his other inmates at the prison because of his age and maturity. He found him to be very knowledgeable and a very powerful and influential person among the other inmates he interacts with and says that is why they look up to him as their leader.

Baptist takes his faith very seriously and not as an escape from prison life. In his view, Baptist has shown where rehabilitation is possible as he has been able to observe him show genuine interest in Islam by asking questions and having conversations, showing some reflection and lesson being taught from his prison experience.

Baptist has been able to influence other inmates so greatly that on one occasion, he stop a very violent assault from occurring after speaking with the men who were planning to rape a woman that was working on the compound.

Prison officer, Brian Tillett, has known Baptist for eight years dating back to his days on death row and expressed surprise at his predicament because of his humble temperament. Baptist works in the prison kitchen washing dishes and interacts well with everyone there. The Chief Justice has two other documents of affidavit to take into consideration.

Baptist’s defence attorney, Priscilla Banner, asked the court to temper mercy with justice. She submitted that Baptist constitutional rights were breached when he was left to sit on death row for 13 years which was unlawful and aggravated the circumstances. She proposed a term of twenty years’ imprisonment less the 13 already served, which means 7 more years before good behaviour and possibly parole.

Counsel from the Solicitor General’s office Trienna Young and Nigel Hawke did not propose a specific term, but argued that aggravation aside, Baptist confessed to being a part of the murder; threatened White before his death; held the gun used in the incident and handed it to the third accused, the late Oscar Mendez, to do the deed. This proved premeditation even though White was reportedly not the intended target.

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has deferred his sentencing of Baptist for Monday, December 21, 2015.

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