ACLU Asks US Court To Vacate “Unconstitutional” Conviction of J’can Fishermen


The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, is requesting a federal court vacate what they believe is the unconstitutional convictions of four Jamaican fishermen.

The ACLU says the men were held without due process and in inhumane conditions. 

The Human Rights Group has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging their detention on the grounds that the Court lacked jurisdiction to prosecute the men in the federal court of Miami.

The filing follows a previous lawsuit earlier this summer on behalf of the fishermen.

The ACLU is now challenging the constitutionality of the 2017 detention of Jamaicans, Robert Weir, Patrick Ferguson, Luther Patterson, and David Williams.

According to the ACLU, the Coast Guard boarded the fishermen’s boat, seized and detained its crew and later destroyed the vessel.

The ACLU says the men were held at sea for 32-days in inhumane conditions.

The men were eventually delivered by the Coast Guard to the authorities in Miami, Florida to face charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana.

The Union says the men initially pleaded not guilty to this charge and were detained pending trial. 

The ACLU argues that the US government acknowledged that it would be virtually impossible to prove the men had drugs on their boat, instead charged the men with providing false information to the Coast Guard about the boat’s destination.

According to U.S. prosecutors, the men claimed their destination was the waters near the coast of Jamaica when they were actually destined for Haiti.

The ACLU maintains the men had not lied to the Coast Guard, but they pleaded guilty because they were told it was the quickest way to get back home. 

The ACLU’s current petition challenges the convictions as unconstitutional because, even assuming the men lied to the Coast Guard, the United States cannot criminalize statements made by foreign nationals on foreign-flagged vessels in international waters.

The Union says it makes that conclusion because such conduct had no potential harm in the United States.

On this basis, the ACLU says it believes the conviction of the Jamaicans should be vacated.

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