Appeal court cuts prison time for man convicted of bartender's death

Appeal court cuts prison time for man convicted of bartender's death

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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WAYNE Lewis, the St Elizabeth truck driver who was convicted of the 2014 shooting death of his female bartender friend while he was in a drunken stupor, and had been sentenced to 10 years at hard labour, will be a free man in half that time following a successful appeal.

In the incident which shocked locals in the Black River community, a tipsy Lewis entered the bar run by his friend Ann-Marie Campbell on the fateful evening and after a few minutes of friendly exchange, pulled out his licensed firearm and shot her in the chest. She was rushed to the hospital but succumbed to her injuries four days later.

Lewis, who afterwards said he had no recollection of what he had done, was beaten by other individuals on the spot and ended up in the same hospital as Campbell before she died. According to eyewitnesses who spoke to the Jamaica Observer following the incident, immediately after Campbell was shot, a seemingly intoxicated Lewis ran to hug her crying “Ann, duh nuh dead, whoiiee!”

In a twist of fate, Lewis's case came before the St Elizabeth Circuit Court on a day declared by the chief justice to be a Sentence Reduction Day. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the prosecution accepted the plea. He was sentenced, on March 23, 2018, to 10 years' imprisonment at hard labour but applied for leave to appeal his sentence.

Lewis's application was granted on the basis that “the judge seemed to have used an inappropriate starting point for the sentencing exercise”.

Lawyers for Smith argued, among other things, that the judge erred in the sentencing exercise in that he failed to: take into consideration the law of involuntary manslaughter in relation to the manner of the killing and conscientiously take into account the contents of the social enquiry report.

According to the social enquiry report in question, Lewis was gainfully employed and had a good relationship with Campbell but became unruly whenever he drank. It further said some of the relatives of the dead woman begged for him not to be sent to prison.

The appeal court earlier this month, in delivering its ruling, said it was in agreement with the argument by Lewis's lawyers that the learned judge erred in carrying out the sentencing exercise.

“It, therefore, must be redone... Though he did take into account Mr Lewis's plea of guilt and his favourable social enquiry report, the judge erred in failing to identify: the appropriate range of sentence for the type of case; and an appropriate starting point. As a result, he arrived at a sentence that, based on an application of the sentencing guidelines, is manifestly excessive,” the court said.

As such it ruled that the appeal was allowed and the sentence imposed by the learned sentencing judge set aside.

“A sentence of five years and four months' imprisonment at hard labour is substituted therefore. The sentence is to be reckoned as having commenced on 23 March 2018,” the appeal court said.

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