On Tuesday afternoon, Tejah Armstrong, who had been serving a 28-year sentence for charges of shooting with intent to murder and aggravated robbery, walked out of His Majesty’s Prison a free man. The release came after his lawyer, Wendel Alexander, successfully argued that there had been a miscarriage of justice in Armstrong’s case several years ago.
Armstrong’s conviction dates back to February 26, 2016, when a nine-member jury found him guilty of the alleged crimes against bus driver Erie Allen on September 3, 2012. Allen claimed that he was walking towards his house when two men emerged from some bushes dressed in dark clothing, each armed with a handgun. He was robbed of his gold chain, EC$50 and was shot in his side by one of the robbers. Allen underwent emergency surgery for injuries to both intestines and his kidney and spent a month in hospital.
Armstrong had consistently maintained his innocence throughout the trial, claiming that he was on the block with friends at the time of the offense and had several alibi witnesses to vouch for him. Despite this, he was convicted and sentenced to concurrent terms of 28 years and 15 years, with the requirement to serve the longer sentence.
On March 9, 2016, Armstrong filed a notice of appeal challenging his conviction and sentence. The matter had been listed to be heard since 2020. He filed his submission on October 12, 2023. He had already spent 11 of his 28-year sentence, when the court finally heard his appeal this October.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday overruled the High Court’s previous ruling, allowing Armstrong to appeal his conviction and sentence. Consequently, his conviction has been quashed, and the sentence set aside, marking the end of a lengthy legal battle.
Armstrong’s attorney is now exploring potential actions against the state as a result of the ruling.
Grounds for Appeal
Among the various grounds for appeal presented by Armstrong’s legal team, several key factors played a pivotal role in the court’s decision.
Although the victim claimed he was approached by two people, only Armstrong was arrested, charged and indicted. He spent four years on remand awaiting trial.
During police interviews, Armstrong denied any knowledge of or participated in any shooting and robbery and maintained his denial through the case.
He claimed that at the time of the offence, he was on the block in the company of his friends. He informed the police that there were a number of people who could confirm his alibi.
During the investigation no identification parade was conducted to ascertain the identity of the accused. In fact, Allen first identified Armstrong for the first time while giving evidence on the stand.
Following the conviction, Armstrong’s original attorney Sherfield Bowen appealed the conviction and sentencing. Alexander filed additional grounds of appeal, totaling 23 grounds of appeal including that the sentence given to his client was harsh and excessive. He argued that no guideline on case law was used to come up with an appropriate/just sentence.
Armstrong, he said, did not receive a fair trial because of “overwhelming prejudice” from procedural irregularities in the course of his trial and the prosecution presented conflicting evidence to the jury. According to the attorney, the judge also failed to give good character direction to the jury since Armstrong had no previous conviction.