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Devon Gordon, Deon Greenidge and Sherwyn Harte

  • Guyana
  • Death Penalty; Constitutional challenge

In 2013, three former Guyana Defence Force Coast Guards, Devon Gordon, Deon Greenidge and Sherwyn Harte, were found guilty of the robbery and murder of Dweive Kant Ramdass. At trial, exercising the discretion available, the judge sentenced all three men to death.

Devon Gordon, Deon Greenidge and Sherwyn Harte

The Death Penalty Project (DPP) in recent years, has spearheaded an unprecedented challenge in Guyana, asking the courts to strike down the death penalty as unconstitutional in all cases.

Challenging the legality of the death penalty in Guyana

In 2021, with the help of The Death Penalty Project and local lawyers, Devon, Deon and Sherwyn challenged their death sentences in the Guyana Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice. The men’s cases brought national and international spotlight to Guyana, as the appeals allowed for the potential abolition of the death penalty in the country.

Devon, Deon, and Sherwyn appealed against their death sentences, ultimately seeking for the court to declare the death penalty unconstitutional, preventing it from being imposed in all future cases in Guyana. With the help of their legal teams and the submission of expert evidence from leading academics, we argued the death penalty is inherently arbitrary, irrational, and disproportionate.

Through appeals, we gathered evidence from world-leading experts presenting to the courts that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent, is applied arbitrarily, disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society, and crucially that it violates central principles of the constitution of Guyana. The appeal also noted that Guyana’s international obligations prohibit the state from resuming executions – currently leaving those sentenced to death languishing on death row and living with the uncertainty that executions could possibly one day resume.

Death sentences overturned 

As a direct result of our appeals Devon, Deon, and Sherwyn were removed from death row. All three men had their death sentences overturned. The appeal judges accepted arguments that it was wrong to impose the death penalty, and that it was wrong that Devon, Deon, and Sherwyn were not afforded individualised sentence hearings.

Following their death sentencing being overturned, all men received life sentences. They will serve a term of years before being eligible for parole.

Future of the death penalty in Guyana

Although Devon, Deon, and Sherwyn were removed from death row and had their death sentences overturned, the courts refused to strike down the death penalty as unconstitutional. The courts found that, having removed the three men from death row, there was no need to consider the lawfulness of the death penalty itself. In this case, the state had given assurances that the death penalty would not be sought for the appellants, should the appeal be successful.

Capital punishment continues to be used in Guyana. Shortly after the judgments in this case, two men were sentenced to death in Guyana. We are currently working with local lawyers in the country to mount a further challenge to tackle the death penalty head on and abolish the punishment for good.

Useful links

Caribbean Court of Justice’s judgment: https://ccj.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/2023_CCJ_9_AJ_GY.pdf

Guyana Newsroom: https://newsroom.gy/2023/07/27/ccj-denies-ex-gdf-coast-guards-special-leave-to-appeal-murder-sentence/

Trinidad & Tobago Guardian: https://www.guardian.co.tt/news/ccj-denies-special-leave-application-for-guyana-defence-force-members-6.2.1763096.9a09d1d86a

Case Timeline

  1. Devon, Deon, and Sherwyn were convicted of robbery and murder. All three men received death sentences.

  2. DPP appealed against their convictions, introducing fresh evidence at the hearing of their appeals. DPP facilitated the submission of expert reports from leading academics.

  3. Devon, Deon, and Sherwyn’s death sentences were overturned in the Court of Appeal’s judgment and all three removed from death row. However, the court refused to strike down the death penalty.

  4. DPP appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice against the use of the death penalty in the country.

  5. The Caribbean Court of Justice dismissed our appeal against the death penalty itself. Capital Punishment remains

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