Court orders conditional release of Saban drug lord

POSTED: 03/8/11 12:32 PM

St. Maarten – Michael Kennedy L., a 47-year old Rastafarian who was serving 33 months for dealing cocaine and marijuana in his native Saba was released from the Pointe Blanche prison on Friday against the express wishes of Justice Minister Roland Duncan. The Court in First Instance granted the inmate his conditional release based on the principle of equality.
On February 3, Duncan denied the Saban drug lord his request for conditional release because he was found in the possession of drugs during his detention, and because L. had earlier drugs related convictions dating back to 1994 and 2000. The Minister also denied a request for electronic supervision, citing the risk that L. would commit similar crimes in the future.
L’s attorney Mr. S.R. Bommel pointed out during a closed-door hearing last week that the earlier convictions are irrelevant to the request because they are so long ago and that her client had been disciplinary punished for possessing a small amount of marijuana in the prison. “After October 2009 he did not use any more drugs and his behavior in prison since then has been above average.”
Bommel called on the principle of equality and mentioned several examples of other inmates who had been conditionally released in spite of the fact that they had been disciplined in the prison. One inmate with a conviction for an armed conflict who was involved in two fights in the prison and who was caught twice with drugs, has also been released, Bommel said.
Judge Mr. M. Keppels wrote in her considerations that the Minister has a lot of maneuvering space in making decisions about requests for conditional release, and that the court would carefully review his decision to deny it to L. “But the Minister also has to stick to general principles of good governance, among them the principle of equality and the ban on arbitrariness.”
Neither the Minister nor the public prosecutor contested the defense’s call on the principle of equality. Judge Keppels ruled that L.’s situation is therefore comparable with that of the other convicts the defense had mentioned and who were conditionally released. “Therefore the Minister could not have arrived at his decision in fairness.”
Because L.’s earliest possible release date (February 26) had already passed, Keppels ordered L.’s immediate release. He served 22 months of his 33-month sentence.

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