A dectective monitors interaction between Althia Morgan and her son at the holding cell at their court on Monday. Chrystal Morgan, standing to the left of her mother in the cell, will also spend four years in jail. (iWN Photo)

By Vincy Lawyer

The verdict in the case of a pastor, his wife, and daughter charged with burning a man with a hot liquid has been given but I can guarantee the public that this case is far from over. There is no need to repeat the facts of this case. Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett sentenced each Morgan to four years in prison. Naturally, there are many members of the public, both locally and in the diaspora, who do not believe that the sentences reflect the severity of the charge. The “court of public opinion” would sentence each of the Morgans to death if they had the legal ability to do so.

However, having read the sentencing guidelines based on this charge and similar judgments, I believe that the Senior Magistrate upheld justice in all spheres. I deem it very important to highlight that, based on the facts of the case, past judgments (precedents) and the mitigating factors (no antecedents and good character), inter alia that magistrate Rickie Burnett’s judgment was fair and just. It is also noteworthy to highlight that based on the law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the maximum sentence for this type of offence at the Magistrate Court level is seven years imprisonment.

I do expect that some may ask, why then didn’t the senior magistrate give each Morgan the maximum sentence? However, while human beings are emotional beings, such emotions cannot and should not impact or influence the law. Thus, given the facts of the case, it is very unlikely that any court would gave a “virgin to the law,” the maximum sentence as a first-time offender. Like it or not, the Morgans, prior to this charge, were “virgins to the law”.

Were their actions horrendous? Certainly! However, judicial officers are guided by the laws of the country and should not be influenced by anything outside the scope of the law. Therefore, having stated the maximum sentence, it is my personal opinion that the court sent a strong and clear message against offences of this nature. Further checks of similar cases and sentencing in fact reveal lesser sentencing. In a later paragraph, I will highlight why defence counsel will use precedents of similar cases in her grounds of appeal.

Another question that may be asked is why the Morgans were not charged with “attempted murder”? Yet again, human emotions and empathy may take precedence in the minds of most. Nevertheless, we must all be cognisant that before any person is charge, the authoritative bodies must first ensure that all the elements of the charge are present. I am confident that the prosecution did this test and having considered the facts, the “lesser” charge was made as opposed to the charge that the populace may have preferred. Consider this, how more upset would some of us have been if, the Morgans were charged with attempted murder and then some — or all — of the elements of the charge were hard to prove, which could have resulted in acquittals? I foresee a greater public outcry if this course of action occurred, which comforts me that the best decisions were made by all judicial officers involved in this case from its inception.

Nigel Morgan, left, and his wife, Althia, speak to their son (not pictured) from inside the holding cell as they await transportation to prison on Monday. (iWN photo)

What’s Next?

Defence Counsel Kay Bcchus-Baptiste has clearly indicated that she intends to appeal her clients’ sentences. If I am to be presumptuous, with valid reason, her first ground of appeal will be the severity of the sentences. This ground will be supported by past sentencing based on similar facts. Before penning this article, I did a search of several similar judgments, which revealed lighter sentences. Based on these facts, the question arises as to whether the Court of Appeal will agree with defence counsel and lower the sentences; or will they uphold the sentences of the senior magistrate? Time and time alone will tell.

Additionally, it is to be noted that given that any audience before the Court of Appeal will not be in the immediate future, I also foresee that Bacchus-Baptiste will make an application to the court for bail of her clients pending their appeal. What does this mean? Simply put, if the court agrees with her bail application, the Morgans will be out of prison until they are given the opportunity to be heard by the Court of Appeal. I do believe that perhaps even before the publication of my article, Bacchus-Baptiste may be successful in her bail application. Again, time and time alone will tell.

More public outcry!

In the start of this article, I did say that this case is indeed far from over. I do expect higher emotions by the public if the Morgans are released from prison pending their appeals. However, the law has to take its course.

In the interim, if I was to offer some free legal advice to the virtual complainant, Cuthbert Victory, it will be to commence immediately civil proceedings against the Morgans for damages. The harsh reality is that no amount of money will ever compensate a victim that has suffered but Mr. Victory will have to decide whether or not, he desires to proceed with a civil suit.

In summarisation, I pray for the best legal resolutions in this matter. This case has touched the emotional core of everyone who has been following it from day one. However, common sense dictates that whenever it concludes, some people will still not agree with the outcome.

This case is a simple reminder of “life and its harsh realities”.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

39 COMMENTS

  1. This is a classic case of legal maneuvering, i think the prosecutor has proven his case on the balance of the probabilities. Lets not forget that a critical piece of evidence, the video recording has not been tendered into evidence. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words is akin to say that the video recoding of the events has the same effect and will show malice and intent. The only consolation i see for the Morgan’s is the fact that past case precedents point to a lesser penalty, coupled with the fact that the records show no antecedents. However, the less fortunate in society must be protected from wanton criminality. The judge is correct in sending a strong message as a deterrent for those who are considering similar behaviour.

    • Interesting….. So concerning deterrent…. You’re saying the Morgan’s planned and thought out what happened????? Hmmm

      • Al, I am only a lawyer, not a psychic. I can only comment on the facts that were presented in court. I do not possess the abilities to comment on the “mens rea” of the defendants. This isnt my field!

    • One point of departure: I disagree with the standard of proof that you stated. This was a criminal matter and not a civil matter, where the prosecution is mandated to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard that you stated is for civil matters.

    • In criminal proceedings in SVG, a “balance of probabilities” judgement is insufficient to convict someone of a crime, especially when the body charged with adjudicating the matter is a court officer, in this case the Senior Magistrate.

      Instead, the bar is much higher than in civil proceedings where a balance of probabilites — more likely than less likely to be guilty of the offense — prevails.

      Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett sentenced each Morgan to four years in prison based on his learned opinion that they were guilty of grievous bodily harm “beyond a reasonable doubt” not on a “balance of probabilities.”

      Recall that O.J. Simpson was found innocent of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend Ron Goldman in his 1994 criminal trial but later found guilty in a civil suit of the “wrongful death” of the same Ron Goldman based on different standards of assession guilt, standards which we share with the United States and other countries with a British-based legal heritage.

  2. So Kay is appealing the sentencing and not the guilty verdict???…. Hmm, awkward. Or did I get something wrong.
    Also a civil case for damages would be premature because an appeal would be pending.

    • My article never stated her grounds of appeal. I was presumptuous in my opinion of her grounds based on my own experiences.

      In any event, a civil suit is not affected by the criminal case. It is not premature. In fact, I would have instructed Mr. Victory to commence same since 2016.

      • I know that , but if it was a not guilty verdict don’t yiu think it will effect the out come of the Civil?? Indirectly,
        Also yiu did say she will be appealing the sentencing. Which is the subject of the article.

    • Counsel stated she was appealing. She did not state the grounds and I have no moral or legal authority to speak for her. I clearly stated I was being presumptuous as to what may be a ground of her appeal based on my own experience as a lawyer. I may be wrong. It is left to be seen.

      Also, the civil matter has its own burden and standard of proof. I see no direct bearing of the criminal matter on the civil. Also, my article had many subjects, the appeal of the sentence (my presumption) being only one.

  3. A good analysis.

    I’m sure lots of lawyers would take up Victory’s civil suit on a contingency basis. The Morgans may have long anticipated this by diverting their assets to other individuals to prohibit their seizure which would then involve a more complicated and expensive legal wrangling.

    Victory’s counsel would try to argue that this was null and void because it was done only to avoid possible payment to his/her client. I don’t know the law well enough to say whether that would be a valid arguement but I do know that if they do so after a civil action commences that the law says such transfers are not permissible.

    Yes, this case is not over by a long shot.

    • As I stated, time and time alone will tell. No matter which side of the legal fence, its going to be interesting legal arguments.

      It’s far from finished…

  4. I am not going to dispute the 4 years, although I wanted a longer sentence. However, I want the Morgans to compensate the victim financially. They say the law is an a….s, but will Kay want this injury on her son? Will the Morgans want this injury on their son? The victim is still suffering. I hope someone takes the case on a contingency basis as stated in a post above.

    • Ms. Creese, Mrs. Baptiste is doing her job. Her job is to get the best judgment for her client.

      As I stated, the maximum sentence at this level was only 7 years and taking into consideration the mitigating factors, it is highly unlikely that they would get a longer sentence.

      I will hope that no human being will ever want to do this to another (AGAIN)

      Mr. Victory always had the option of commencing a civil suit, where inter alia, he can seek damages for pain and suffering.

      • What if the defendant, Mr. Victory has a meltdown and goes on a killing spree against the Morgan family, could that then be justified? How can you justify deliberately disfiguring another human being? A gang, assaulting one unarmed poor man. This case seems to be about Ms. Bacchus, the Judge, and the Morgans.

    • At this point, I dont think it will be justified based on a 2 year “cooling off” period. However, an expert in the area will have to be called to assess him.

      However, let’s hope that no such actions are contemplated.

      No amount of money will take away the pain he felt but a civil action is open to him.

      • If you had named your essay the Saga of Victory then it would have been a more befitting title to this ironic tale.

      • Victory’s Saga is over. He has gotten judgment in a criminal case and he has the choice of commencing a civil suit.

        The Morgans’ on the other hand is far from finished.

        We can agree to disagree. I stand by my title and my opinion.

  5. People thinking way ahead of themselves…. This case was VERY poorly defended . With no prejudice intended on the victim..

  6. Interesting!!!!!!!
    Do the precedents speak to three persons ganging up against one, or were they one–on-one?

    • The Senior Magistrate considered the legal principle of joint enterprise in the Morgans’ case though.

      The precedents I read varied.

  7. David, thanks for a little historical lesson about the name Jackson. I was checking out Leroy Jackson in Baga about the Jackson family but he couldn’t explain the following: There is Jackson Bay and there was a Jackson estate on the road to Bellwood. I was puzzled how the Fraser’s come to own Rutland Vale because I am sure the entire parcel of land from Jackson Bay to the estate further up was owned by the Jackson family. If you have a link to the story please share!

    • Alexander Fraser bought half of the Rutland Vale Estate (which was 850 acres in size at the time) some time between 1902-05 from the Colonial government which at the time owned the estate. (It is a myth that he got the land for free.) The other half (300 acres) was divided into house spots and agricultural land and given to refugees displaced by the Soufriere eruption in North Leeward in 1902. This area includes present-day Texier Road and Betromy as residential areas. The Texier ridge overlooking Layou was also part of the estate granted to refugees as farmland as was much of the land from the intersection to Barrouallie past First River leading into the heart of the Rutland Vale valley. The Fraser heirs still own some land above the road leading to Barrouallie where one of the heirs lives in a house built by her parents, the St. Hills, on the site of Alexander Fraser’s house. They also still own land on the road leading to Bambarou which they are selling as house spots.

      As for the so-called “Jackson Estate” on the road to Bellwood, I believe you are referring to Palmiste Park Estate, once owned by a white man named Jackson who is likely no relation to the original Josiah Jackson or his immediate descendants and heirs (two sons who appear to have returned to England after their father’s death), but was never part of the Rutland Vale Estate which formed one of its boundaries. The Bellwood and Akers Estates were also separate estates when the whole of SVG was cut up into sugar plantations and Crown lands after 1763. Josiah Jackson was one of the original owners of land sold by the Crown. (It is another myth that most of these lands were acquired for free.)

      Rutland Vale Estate has been owned by many individuals and institutions such as banks, nearly all in England, since the early 18th century when sugar cultivation in SVG began its slow but steady decline as many estate, including Rutland Vale Estate, went bankrupt, often more than once.

      Much of this information comes from books and articles written about SVG by local and foreign scholars. Check with Dr. Adrian Fraser who is still doing research on some of these issues the next time you are home for more information and access to the relevant sources.

      But don’t expect ordinary people to have any accurate information about events that took place 100-200 years ago: all you will get are myths with no relation to historical fact.

      The Documentation Centre at Frenches has lots of records. There are or were Many old records and deeds in the Courthouse vault that had a wealth of data. Because of a lack of preservation efforts, many of these are in very poor condition. Many could have been copied or transferred to the Documentation Centre but I doubt that this has happened. Still many of these documents can also be found in the Public Records Office in England.

      Good luck with your research!

  8. There is so much being said about the Morgan’s and their Legal issues, yet no one would pay close attention as to how all these sad issues could have been avoided, if this Pastor and his family had just simply read, a copy of Professor Louis Berkhof book on Systematic theology.

    ( https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/systematic-theology-louis-berkhof )

    This just goes to show, how little attention is being paid here to doctrinal issues, and how it affects our Clergy, and their very poor grasp of traditional Christianity.

    That system of theology was reaffirmed by the Synod of Dordt in 1619.

    ( http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/ )

    Yet here we are, so many years on, and we have here in SVG a bunch of characters, who are little different from snake oil sales people, running amok with behaviour that has now landed the family of three in jail.

    ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZARuVXiH8k )

    See:

    ( http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm )

    See:

    ( https://www.calvinistcorner.com/index.html )

    Upon giving serious analysis to the cause of this family’s problem, we see that their problem is SVG’s problem also and they are, by far, too much priest craft and ignorance of sound theology in the churches.

  9. I think the Morgans’s penalty fitted the crime based on the facts presented. I believed the Magistrate was fair in his judgement. However, I agree that Mr Victory should as soon as possible sue for damages.

  10. Someone mentioned earlier that the Morgan’s can transfer their assets to avoid a potential set off by the claimant. This is is defined as a preferential transfer, the claimant can still go after there assets if it can be proven that the only reason for the transfer of such assets is to keep them out of the hands of the claimants. Accordingly, the defendant has to be cognizant of the fact that transferring of an asset is not an automatic shield to keep it out of the reach of a claimant.

  11. This Pastor and his family like so many others here and in Africa, would appear to lack basic training in Christian theology.

    In Rwanda recently, thousands of Churches were ordered to be closed, by the President of that Country. New Law would require training in Theology and all new Pastors would be expected to have a Degree in Theology.

    https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/rwanda-closes-thousands-of-churches-in-bid-for-more-control-20180404

    https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-africa

  12. C. Ben-David, You are always commenting in very colorful language on issues concerning tourism and you know a lot about all things SVG. Why is it that your voice is missing in many really important issues? like the PM putting his son and his daughter in law in charge of SVG finances? And like the fact that they are selling our birthright, putting some grenadine islands for sale on the internet? But, ever-present in trivial matters? Are the people of SVG ever consulted in a referendum or such about these matters? Remove Gonsalves from office fast or you will be sorry. C. ben, let us see what that pen of your is worth.

  13. Kenton, can you please publish the entire budget of SVG for everybody to see then we can have meaningful discussions.

  14. From observing the video a few times of the incident, my conclusion is that the girl who threw hot water over him had “intent to harm”; it was premeditated. The fact that she had boiling hot water, shows malice aforethought of heating up the water to be used as a weapon. It only takes about 2 minutes to heat up a kettle to boiling point. The daughter would have enough time to heat the kettle from the victims initial confrontation with her mother.

  15. If acid was used, would the Morgan family still only receive 4 years? Acid also disfigures, where people who have committed this heinous act have received 30yrs to life. There is no way a disfigurement like this enacted on this poor man in any civilised society would receive only 4 years. If anything, the girl who committed the act of throwing hot water over him should be serving more time, or at least the full 7 years. This lenient time of 4 years sends a message out to people that they can throw boiling water to disfigure someone and receive only 4 to 7 years. This is outrageous.

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