Jamaica Gleaner: June 25, 2020 – George Williams had his first meal in 50 years outside of prison walls on Wednesday after a St Catherine Circuit Court judge upheld a notice of abandonment in his murder case.
“Freedom time,” was all the grey-haired Williams could manage to say as he emerged from the courthouse flanked by his niece Pamela Green, brother Aldwin Jones, and lawyer Isat Buchanan.
“I am feeling so elated to know that after such a long time, he’s finally out of prison,” said Green before making her way downstairs to greet her uncle.
The 71-year-old Williams had spent 50 years in custody without trial.
Jones said that the first thing he wanted to do for his elder sibling was to buy him a proper meal.
“We are going to take him to a popular restaurant … and get him refreshed a little before taking him home,” Jones said, wearing a big smile that radiated joy.
The nolle prosequi submission made by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was expected as Williams had languished in the penal system for an “extraordinarily long time”, his attorney told The Gleaner.
Buchanan said that once all the parameters for the release were met, including a positive social assessment of Williams’ immediate family members, it would have been hard denying the eventual outcome.
“We are overwhelmed. Nobody can be as happy as George today having his day in court. This is what I called swift justice,” he said.
Buchanan said he is now prepared to enter into discussions with the attorney general on a process for compensation for Williams.
In handing down the ruling, Justice Stephanie Jackson-Haisley said it was an appropriate decision.
“We wish him well and that he reintegrates into his community and his family, and all I ask of you is to assist Mr Williams in that reintegration process,” said the judge.
Williams was facing one count each of murder, malicious destruction of property, and wounding with intent charges stemming from an incident in 1970. He was arrested and charged with the killing of a Canadian man during a violent attack on the man’s family while they drove through his hometown of Ivy district in St Catherine.
DPP Paula Llewellyn said that her office felt sympathetic towards the relevant parties in such drawn-out cases.
“It is for all stakeholders now to see how he can be put in a place that he reintegrates with the love of his family and the supervision of the mental-health authorities,” Llewellyn said.
“Our decision to discontinue the case has to be very transparent,” she said, adding that her office made contact with the Canadian High Commission in an effort to find out if there were relatives of the deceased who sought explanation about their decision.
The DPP said that time spent in prison meant that she was obligated to discontinue the case because he would have served more time than dictated by sentencing guidelines.
Williams’ family endured jitters when independent psychiatric consultant Geoffrey Walcott appeared to differ with the assessment of Dr Myo Kyaw Oo, senior medical officer at Bellevue Hospital, on whether Williams was fit to plead.
Walcott told the court that Williams was fit to plead after admitting to just one evaluation session as against the more than 20 Oo had with the detainee.
He said that Williams, who suffers from schizophrenia, has been on medication.
“I am certain that his mental facets have improved since 1970 when he was incarcerated in a psychotic state, and he has shown significant improvement. He does have some persistent psychotic symptoms, but they do not interfere with his ability to either engage of understand what’s going on,” Walcott said.