Justice Avril Lovelace Johnson

Justice Avril Lovelace Johnson, an Appeal Court Judge who has been nominated to the Supreme Court has raised objection to the death penalty in the country’s criminal law describing it as awful.

She said her basic objection to the death penalty was the fact that judges were humans and could make mistakes.

“Death is the end of everything, what if we make a mistake and the person is already dead,” she said.

Ms. Johnson made the statement when she appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament for vetting to the Supreme Court.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on November 12, 2019, nominated Justice Lovelace Johnson and two other judges, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo and Justice Mariama Owusu, both Appeal Court Judges for the Supreme Court.

The three were to replace Justices Vida Akoto-Bamfo and Sophia Adinyira, both of whom went on retirement and the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo, who will retire on December 20, 2019.

Per Article 144 Clause 1 of the 1992 Constitution, the President appoints a justice of the Supreme Court as Chief Justice, in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament.

Article 144 (2) also enjoins the President to consult the Council of State and submit the names and curricula vitae of nominees for appointment to the Supreme Court.

After the completion of consultations with the Council of State, in accordance with Article 144 (2), the President then has to seek the approval of Parliament for the appointment of the nominees as justices of the Supreme Court.

Justice Johnson also cited situations in the United States, where people were sentenced to about 30 years in prison only to find out later that they were not guilty of the offence for which they were convicted.

“We have heard many cases after several years in the United States… people have been sentenced to serve about 30 years imprisonment at that time there was no DNA, now they realised that they were not guilty…A human being is always capable of making a mistake does not take somebody’s life because if you take you cannot correct it. Death is final, for that reason alone that is why I am anti-death penalty” she added.

Justice Johnson also kicked against the automatic right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which she says is being misused by litigants.

She said the provision is that if the case started at the High Court then the plaintiff had an automatic right to appeal, which has allowed all kinds of people to go to the Supreme Court.

According her, the automatic right has given rise to many cases to the Supreme Court, adding that the Supreme Court was almost as busy like the High Court, which had the original jurisdiction.

Justice Johnson further called for the automatic right to appeal to be curtailed because the Court of Appeal has experienced judges that deal with such matters, adding that some cases must be left to end at the Appeals Court.

She argued that the Supreme Court should be made to deal with cases of interpretation and policies that affected lives and aspirations of the people.

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