Court of Appeal upholds conviction of Clarendon murderers

Court of Appeal upholds conviction of Clarendon murderers

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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AN Appeal Court panel of judges last Friday refused to budge on the life sentences of four men convicted for the 2008 murder of a teenager in Buzz Rock, Effortville, Clarendon, during a daring home invasion.

It, however, relented and adjusted the amount of time for each to serve before becoming eligible for parole.

The four – Germaine Smith, otherwise called 'Heavy Man'; Daniel Edwards, also known as 'Mad-dem'; Andrew Thomas, also known as 'Shawa'; and Jimmy Ellis, otherwise called 'Rocky', who, according to the police, were at the time members of a gang, were convicted on January 8, 2012 for the murder of 14-year-old Ishmael Wellington, while he slept in his bed. They were sentenced to each serve 35 years imprisonment before becoming eligible for parole.

The men, in the dead of night on May 23, 2008, invaded the wood and cardboard dwelling occupied by Wellington and his mother and siblings when one of them shot and killed him. During the incident one of the criminals beat Wellington's mother with a gun. His two sisters received gunshot injuries.

Following extensive investigations by the police, the men were arrested and charged. In unsworn statements during their trial, they proclaimed their innocence telling the court that on the night of the murder they were elsewhere. According to Ellis, he was with his babymother that night. Edwards said he was at home; Smith said he was also at home; while Thomas, who was 16 years old at the time of the murders, said he was at home with his mother that night.

The Court of Appeal in its ruling handed down last Friday said the various grounds of appeal, which challenged the respective convictions of these applicants, “have failed”.

“The learned judge correctly rejected the submission of no-case to answer and properly directed the jury on the various issues, which they were to have considered. The learned judge was not wrong in imposing sentences of imprisonment for life on each of the applicants, including Mr Thomas.

“There is nothing to prevent a sentence of life imprisonment being imposed on a person who was a child at the time that that child commits a murder,” the court said.

It, however, said the judge at the time had failed to apply an individual, systematic approach to the sentencing of the men.

“She stressed the heinousness of the crime without outlining any other reason for arriving at the sentences that she pronounced. The exception to that statement is that she made a deduction of 10 years in consideration of Mr Thomas' youth. She also did not grant credit to the applicants for the time that they had spent on remand pending trial,” the court noted. It said “in light of those failures by the learned judge, this court is obliged to review the sentences using the now established procedure set out in the sentencing guidelines”.

As a consequence the court refused the application for leave to appeal the conviction. With respect to the appeals against the sentences it said these were allowed in part.

“The sentences of imprisonment for life are affirmed, but the periods stipulated that each applicant shall serve before becoming eligible for parole are set aside, with the following periods imposed instead,” the court said. Consequently, Smith's sentence is 31 years and six months, Edwards' 31 years and six months, Thomas's 16 years and eight months, and Ellis's is 26 years and seven months.

The sentences are being treated as having started on 16 March 2012.


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