At 48, Edwards yesterday walked out of the Port-of-Spain prison a free man, having been ordered released.
He immediately went into the loving embrace of his daughter Tina, who was just two, when he went to jail after being convicted in 1988 for the murder of Laventille shopkeeper Faustin St Louis. She celebrated her 30th birthday on Monday.
Interviewed outside the prison walls, Edwards said he was feeling very, very happy. “It hasn’t soaked in as yet but I can tell you that I am feeling very happy,” he said.
Edwards said he just wants to go home to his family and be a model family-man and citizen. He shared some advice to young people saying, “you have to be serious with the choices you make, because you could take one chance and that chance could cost you your life. It could cost you many, many years away from those you love.” His mother Iris was emotional when she got the news of her son’s release. “I cry, I cry, I cry! Oh God! Thank you Jesus. Thank you Lord.
I feel happy,” the devout Roman Catholic gushed, as she struggled to hold back tears. Those tears were tears of joy. “He went in when he was about 19 or so,” she recounted in an interview at her Laventille Road home yesterday. She intends to hold a prayer service to thank God for her son’s release.
HE SMILED EVEN IN JAIL
“I am a praying woman. I prayed and prayed all these years. I thank God for his mercies,” Iris said with a wide smile on her face. She said although her son was cognisant of what he had done, he was optimistic and used the opportunity in prison to continue his education.
He attained four O’Level passes and regularly attended Bible classes. He had no bad record against him in jail, she said. “When I visited he would always have a smiling face,” she said. Iris also said she was very happy when she heard of Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Joseph Harris’ appeal for Presidential pardons for prisoners found worthy of mercy in celebration of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, from December 8, 2015 to November 20.
While she admits that Trinidad and Tobago is not the same society as the one her son left behind when he first went to jail, she is optimistic that notwithstanding the current crime situation, he will easily reintegrate into family life and carve his unique niche as a citizen.
“I will make sure of that,” she said, confidently.
As a mother she knows very well how difficult it is to control the actions of children. “Some guys are mislead. My child ended up the same way,” she said. Iris noted that while her family is not rich, they had the basic necessities that what happened to Albert was not done out of poverty but because he had been misled by peers.
“The old people have a saying, ‘Friends can carry you but they don’t bring you back’, and that is so very true,” she said. Now, she says, “He is a full man now. He’s got to realise his mistakes and pick up the pieces...but thank God for life.” She does not believe that her son will stray again as he did when he was a young man having paid for youthful misdeeds, by losing 28 years of his life to prison. He met, for the first time yesterday, his granddaughter Nakiyah, nine.
MURDER CHANGED TO MANSLAUGHTER
Edwards was freed yesterday by appellate court judges Justices Paula Mae Weekes, Alice Yorke- Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed who held that his murder conviction could not be upheld and instead, substituted it with one of manslaughter in accordance with recent principles handed down in the UK House of Lords ruling on the law of ‘joint enterprise.’ According to their ruling, it was clear there was nothing in the prosecution’s case against Edwards capable of allowing the finding of fact that he intended that St Louis be killed or caused grievous bodily harm. They also agreed that since the offence of robbery was inherently dangerous as it contemplated violence, manslaughter was an appropriate substitution. They also held such a conviction (manslaughter) carries a sentence ranging from 15 to 25 years, Edwards - having been in custody for 28 calendar years - spent “far in excess of any sentence that would have been properly imposed by the court”, and they ordered that the 28 years he spent in prison be deemed as ‘time served’, for his manslaughter conviction. At the appeal, the State conceded that Edwards’ murder conviction should be set aside.
Edwards and another man, Angel Thomas, were convicted on May 15, 1992, for the murder of St Louis on October 14, 1988. St Louis was killed during a robbery at his supermarket at Laventille Road in Morvant. Thomas died in prison.
Edwards did not receive leave to challenge his conviction at the Privy Council but sometime later, his attorneys approached the President asking that his case be remitted to the Court of Appeal, after it was discovered that a Justice of the Peace who was involved in his case, had been convicted of fraud.
Edwards was represented by Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, Imran Ali and Michael Bullock while Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson and Amerelle Francis appeared for the State.