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Convict to serve minimum sentence for killing best friend as teen

Convict to serve minimum sentence for killing best friend as teen

Posted  66 Views updated 5 months ago

Although a 25-year-old man was only 13 years old when he fatally stabbed his teenage friend, the Court of Appeal has ruled that he must serve the mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment for murder. He spent seven years in custody before he was tried, but the court, in dismissing his appeal this month, did not reduce his sentence for the time spent in custody before trial. The court also ruled that his sentence was not manifestly excessive. The man, who the court referred to as OB because he was a child at the time of the offence, was sentenced in February 2017 to life imprisonment at hard labour. The judge ordered that he serve 15 years’ imprisonment before he could become eligible for parole. A Home Circuit Court jury had convicted him in January 2017 of the murder of his friend, which took place on December 6, 2009. The prosecution led evidence that the appellant, without permission, rode away on a bicycle that his friend was using to make deliveries. When he returned with the bicycle, an argument developed between them on Rushworth Avenue, St Andrew.

The argument spiralled into physical altercation and the appellant pulled a knife from his waist. The victim escaped and armed himself with an ice pick.

An eyewitness testified at the trial that he intervened and implored them to stop. He said he took away the ice pick and threw it away. The victim then took up a knife but the eyewitness said, on his advice, the victim dropped the weapon and walked away with him.

The eyewitness said while they were walking away, the appellant followed behind them and then used a knife to stab the victim in the chest.

In an unsworn statement, the appellant had said he acted in self-defence and did not intend to kill his friend.

Attorney-at-law Linton Gordon had argued on appeal that the judge failed to address the jury on important issues such as proof beyond a reasonable doubt and provocation, which resulted in an unfair trial.

It was submitted that the mandatory minimum sentence was manifestly excessive because the appellant did not get a reduction in sentence for the time spent in custody from his arrest in 2009 until his sentence in 2017.

One of the grounds of appeal was that the judge failed to appreciate that given the circumstances of the case, the appellant should have benefited from the issuance of a judge’s certificate pursuant to Section 42K of the Criminal Justice Administration (Amendment ) Act of 2015.

The judge’s certificate is issued when the judge finds that having regard to the circumstances of the case, it would be manifestly excessive and unjust to sentence a defendant to the prescribed minimum penalty. The certificate allows a defendant to seek leave to appeal against sentence.

Prosecutors Orrett Brown and Renelle Morgan argued that the judge’s summation to the jury was adequate and very clear. They submitted that the sentence was not manifestly excessive, as the judge imposed the statutory minimum sentence. Therefore, the appellate court could not reduce the sentence to account for the time spent in custody.

The court, in refusing the application for leave to appeal against conviction, ordered that the sentence is to commence from February 23, 2017.

It was the court’s finding that the judge properly directed the jury.

On the issue of sentencing, the court said: “While it is now established that a court should give credit for time spent in pretrial custody, the statutory minimum for the offence of murder, outlined in the OAPA (Offence Against the Person Act), curtails the court’s discretion to give that credit, in absence of a 42K certificate.

“In the circumstances of this case, the learned judge did not err in not issuing such a certificate. Neither can it be said that the sentence is manifestly excessive,” the court said.

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