A Jamaican man accused of killing another man in his home country last December is seeking to prevent deportation from the Cayman Islands because he contends his “right to life” may be in danger.
According to records filed with the Grand Court this month, O’Brian O’Dane Ellis, 29, who is imprisoned here following his arrest for illegal landing, is seeking a court declaration that an order to return to Jamaica would violate of his right to life as well as prohibitions against torture and inhumane treatment in Cayman’s Constitution Order, 2009.
As of Wednesday, Ellis had not been deported and the matter was still before the courts.
Ellis’s attorneys argue that if he is convicted of aggravated murder in Jamaica, he could face the death penalty.
“Consequently, his removal or deportation to a country exposing him to such penalty would be in breach of the constitution of the Cayman Islands,” a Grand Court judicial review application filed Sept. 5 states. “Furthermore, the prison conditions of Jamaica are such that removal to Jamaica to custody … would also constitute a violation of the prohibition on torture and inhumane treatment.”
According to court records, Ellis is wanted in connection with the Dec. 6, 2016 killing of Steadman Sterling in Jamaica. He is charged with murder; however, his Cayman attorneys point out that certain characteristics of the crime could lead to it being classified as “aggravated murder” at sentencing if Ellis is convicted.
In Jamaica, the only crime punishable by the death penalty is aggravated murder.
“The summary [of the crime, given to Cayman immigration officers] refers to a report having been made to [Jamaican] police that morning by the deceased [Mr. Sterling], who was later shot,” the Grand Court filing states. “For that reason, were he to be returned to Jamaica, [Ellis] would be at real risk of the death penalty pursuant to the provisions of the Jamaica Offenses Against the Person Act.
“The order sought is necessary to protect perhaps the most fundamental human right of all, the right to life.”
The Grand Court initially heard the matter on Sept. 12 but made no finding on the request for judicial review, adjourning the application and permitting the applicant to file it at a later date if he wished.
The court considered that the proceedings “remained live” and that Cayman’s chief immigration officer should give at least 14 days’ written notice to the person being removed or deported from the islands, as well as to their legal counsel.
Justice Marlene Carter, who signed the Sept. 12 order, noted that the Immigration Department, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the governor’s office would undertake to provide such advance notice if a deportation order was issued.
The order also sought Cayman authorities to undertake “to communicate with the Jamaican authorities regarding the possibility of obtaining an assurance that [Ellis] shall not be sentenced to death if returned to Jamaica.”