Local authorities ‘unable to confirm’ Mexican conviction
A Caymanian woman held in local prison under sentencing terms of a 2006 drug conviction in Mexico was freed after her sentence was reduced in a Grand Court ruling.
According to Judge Richard Williams’s September 2013 decision, which was recently made public, the offense that led to the conviction by the Mexican court on April 25, 2006, could not be determined by either attorneys for the defendant, Kisha Letoya McLean, or by the Cayman Islands Attorney General’s Office.
“[The parties] are unable to precisely determine what the actual offence was,” noted Justice Williams in rendering his decision on the case. “Although I recognise that there may have been difficulties obtaining these details from the Mexican authorities, I hold the view that the attorney general should have ensured that he had obtained these details before the warrant was prepared and placed before the governor.
“It creates unnecessary uncertainty, especially in a case where one is dealing with an issue of whether an offence is specified in a schedule [of criminal offences], and it sets a poor procedural precedent for future prisoner transfers,” the decision states.
Attorneys for Ms. McLean’s said “the offence of introducing cocaine into Mexico” led to a 17-and-a-half year prison sentence following her initial arrest in 2004.
In November 2006, Ms. McLean requested, through the British Embassy in Mexico City, to return home to Cayman to serve out her sentence. Such a proposal is allowed for citizens of British Overseas Territories under the Repatriation of Prisoners (Overseas Territories) Order 1986, which extends the U.K. Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 1984, to Cayman.
During the transfer process, the attorney general’s office and then-Director of Prisons Dwight Scott agreed terms for the prisoner transfer to Cayman. Those included an understanding that Ms. McLean would be eligible for parole in November 2013, that her earliest outright release date was November 2015, and that her latest possible release date was September 2021.
According to court records, Ms. McLean signed and accepted the terms of the prisoner transfer from Mexico to Cayman in February 2011. She returned to Cayman in December 2012.
In May 2013, Ms. McLean’s attorneys wrote to Mr. Scott challenging his calculation of the remainder of the prison sentence. This was the matter that ended up before Justice Williams.
Her attorneys argued that she had not committed an offense listed in the schedule of the Cayman Islands Prisons Law and that under the bill of rights contained in the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, “no one shall be deprived by government of liberty where such deprivation is not in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.”
Justice Williams essentially agreed with Ms. McLean’s lawyers in his ruling: “[Ms. McLean] although serving a sentence for an offence that may be characterised as being a drug trafficking offence in nature, it cannot be stated as being one of the specific drug trafficking offences under the [Cayman Islands] Misuse of Drugs Law.”
“The schedule [of criminal offenses] requires certainty and offences cannot be inferred into the list…,” Justice Williams wrote. “The issue is not whether there is an offence, for which the applicant is serving a sentence, for there clearly is one, by is it one that falls within the schedule?”
The judge ruled that since Ms. McLean had not committed an offense contained in the schedule of crimes, she should serve one-third of the sentence [rather than 5/9ths of the sentence as was customary under the old Prisons Law].
Ms. McLean was “at liberty” to seek damages from the Cayman Islands government, if she so wished, the judge ruled.
Priestley’s law firm, which represented Ms. McLean, said she was released from prison immediately following the court ruling.