Convicts in '83 coup to be freed
Grenada court orders release of 3 ex-soldiers
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada -- (AP) -- Grenada's High Court on Thursday ordered
the release of three former soldiers
convicted of manslaughter in the killings of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and others during a 1983 coup
that prompted a U.S. invasion of the Caribbean island.
Vincent Joseph, Cosmos Richardson and Andy Mitchell were convicted of manslaughter
in 1986. Joseph and
Richardson were each sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison, and Mitchell was sentenced to 30 years.
''It's a significant victory,'' said the men's lawyer, Keith Sutherland, after the ruling was handed down.
The men were not immediately released from prison because officials were
still preparing their paperwork,
Sutherland said. He said he hoped they would be freed later Thursday.
Judge Brian Alleyne ruled in favor of the men's arguments that it was unconstitutional
for them to serve multiple
15-year sentences for manslaughter consecutively.
Alleyne said citizens cannot be required to serve more than one sentence for the same crime.
Prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sutherland said in several months he would file documents seeking the release
of the other 14 people convicted in
the coup slayings -- that group was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. Among them is former Deputy
Prime Minister Bernard Coard.
None of those convicted has been executed.
The three men ordered released were soldiers who prosecutors said did the shooting, carrying out orders.
They were accused in the killings of Bishop, three Cabinet members and
seven other people on Oct. 19, 1983,
during the coup. Witnesses said Bishop was among eight victims lined against a wall and cut down with
Six days later, 6,000 U.S. Marines and paratroopers landed in Grenada.
The U.S. government said the invasion's
purpose was to restore order, protect Americans -- including several hundred medical students -- and prevent a
further buildup of Cuban military advisors and weapons on the island.
The United States also wanted to stop a more extreme move to the left by
the radical military faction that
overthrew Bishop and his New Jewel Movement.