Micah Williams’s appeal against a rape conviction and subsequent life sentences was recently heard by the Court of Appeal of Guyana, presided over by Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, with Justices Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud in attendance.
A former trade unionist, Williams, 37, was found guilty of penetrating a girl both vaginally and anally between January 1 and December 31, 2016, when she was between seven and eight years old, following a trial before Justice Jo-Ann Barlow in the Demerara High Court in April 2018.
He was also found guilty of sodomising the little girl on January 2, 2017.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the trial court, Williams, through his lawyers Nigel Hughes and Ronald Daniels, mounted an appeal.
In his submissions before the Appellate Court, Daniels contended that the trial Judge did not fairly put his client’s defence to the jury. In this regard, he explained that this was more of a “narrow issue”, that had to do with the complainant being “prompted” to respond to questions.
Despite the jury’s verdict, Daniels has argued that his client was not the one who had abused the girl. To this end, he contended that two persons had “guided” the complainant to implicate his client, to cover up for a 14-year-old boy who had actually committed the act.
Williams’s lawyers are also challenging his sentences on the grounds that they are manifestly excessive and are not in keeping with established sentencing guidelines.
For her part, Senior State Counsel Natasha Backer has argued that the trial Judge would have “more than sufficiently” put Williams’s defence to the jury.
While referring to aspects of the records of appeal, Backer said, “Here, the Judge would have reminded the jury about the alleged conspiracy that [Williams] was relying on as the crux of his defence. The trial Judge reminded the jury of [Williams’s] insistence that it was not he who would have committed the acts in question.”
The Appeal Court has reserved its judgement in this matter.
Reacting to the jury’s verdicts in the High Court, Williams had called them “strange”, while professing his innocence.
“I find it strange this would be the position of the jury,” the convict had said as he described that day as the most terrifying day of his life.
In her sentencing remarks, Justice Barlow had reprimanded an unremorseful Williams, whom she had called out for shifting the blame on the teenage boy. While telling the convict he could not play ignorant to the evidence, Justice Barlow had highlighted the severe damage the abuse had caused to the young girl’s body. She told Williams that although he fought for the rights of workers, he had violated the trust the child had in him.
In the end, Williams was sentenced to life imprisonment on each of the two charges. The sentences were to run concurrently, and he was to become eligible for parole only after serving 20 years.
Justice Barlow had also ordered that the convict must undergo counselling tailored for sex offenders.