‘Now I can sleep good’
Tuesday’s indication by the island’s chief prosecutor that she would be seeking the death penalty for the man accused of raping and murdering nine-year-old Nikita Noel is the sedative the child’s mother, Nordia Edwards, had been “praying” for ever since her nightmare began on February 1 this year.
“It is a good move. At least right now I can sleep good. I am glad that I am finally getting justice,” Edwards, who said she was not aware of the director of public prosecutions’ (DPP) intent to seek the death penalty for her former partner, told the Jamaica Observer after the news broke.
“It is not finished yet. It is a long way, but I am glad so far,” she added realistically. Edwards, following her daughter’s funeral earlier this month, had told journalists that the charges laid by the police against the accused, Omar Green, were no compensation for the loss of her only daughter. She wanted Green dead, too, she said then.
On Tuesday DPP Paula Llewellyn, King’s Counsel, served notice of her intention to seek the death penalty when Green appeared before the Hanover Circuit Court after she had, earlier in the day, entered a nolle prosequi in the Hanover Parish Court discontinuing the matter there and preferring a voluntary Bill of indictment against him in the Hanover Circuit Court.
Green is accused of committing the crimes in Esher, Hanover, on the same day that he and Edwards had a domestic spat.
Nikita was on her way back home after attending school when the crime was committed.
Llewellyn, in a statement issued to the media, said her office, “having carefully considered the allegations as disclosed within the evidentiary material gathered so far, the law, and the public interest, took the decision to enter the nolle prosequi and also file and serve the death penalty notice.
But Betty-Ann Blaine, child advocate and founder of Hear The Children’s Cry and Youth Opportunities Unlimited, told the Observer that, while she was happy with the pace at which the matter has moved and believes Green, if found guilty, deserves death, she has reservations and a raft of questions about the application of the death penalty here.
“I offer my condolence all over again to the family and the loved ones, but I don’t know about the issue of the death penalty. I have never been a proponent of the death penalty in Jamaica and the reason is that I have always argued the point that in a country where there is so much corruption [there are] so many gaps in the system with investigations over the years,” she told the Observer.
“Clearly, it seems to be that they have the evidence, but here is what I am trying to say: Do we have the mechanism to carry out a death penalty in Jamaica? How would we do that? When was the last time we put anybody to death in Jamaica? There was a time when it was death by hanging. I don’t know, did we ever do lethal injections in Jamaica?” she questioned.
“I always say give them life sentence and never let them see the light of day again. Let them do hard labour,” Blaine said.
Noting that “people are upset and angry” about the case, Blaine said, while not wanting to be judgemental, she was curious as to whether prosecutors had asked for the death penalty “to appease the masses”.
According to Blaine, it is now a question of whether the State has the guts or the means.
“Are we willing and prepared to carry out the death penalty, and what would that involve, because we have not put anybody to death in decades? … There are all kinds of gaps in the system that you want to be careful about before you pronounce the death penalty on anybody,” she stated.
“What I want to ask of the DPP is: Tell us, if this is real, tell us if the death penalty is actually going to be pursued and what is it going to take, because we haven’t put anybody to death in a long time? I just don’t know what this is about, if we are truly going to put this man to death and what it is going to entail legally.”
Under section 3(1) of the Offences Against the Person Act “every person who falls within section 3 (1A) shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life or to death”.
Section 3 (1A) speaks to people who are convicted for murder in the course or furtherance of rape.
Section 3 (1D) of the Act prescribes that the death penalty will not be imposed unless prior notice is given to the accused person long before the trial of the matter, indicating that section 3 (1A) would be applicable on conviction for the offence of murder in the course or furtherance of rape and a possible option in sentencing, given the circumstances of the case.
The DPP said in light of those provisions and a consideration of the circumstances of the case and the public interest “it has been deemed appropriate by the ODPP [Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions] for the death penalty notice to be prepared and served on the accused at the time that the Voluntary Bill of Indictment was laid in the Hanover Circuit Court”.
“This is to ensure that at the earliest opportunity the accused is made aware of the intention of the prosecuting authority to make the recommendation that the death penalty is an option for the sentencing judge consequent on a conviction after trial for the offence of murder in the course or furtherance of rape as outlined on count one of the indictment,” Llewellyn said further.
The matter has been set for mention on Monday, July 3 in the Hanover Circuit, for the file to be completed, a psychiatric evaluation report to be submitted, and disclosure to be made of all the material to the defence.
Green is being represented by a court-assigned attorney.
In June last year the DPP had served notice that her office would be seeking the death penalty for Rushane Barnett, the man charged for the murders of Clarendon woman Kimesha Wright and her four children who were his cousins. Barnett, however, pleaded guilty to the five counts of murder when he appeared before the court, resulting in the death penalty being taken off the table. He was subsequently sentenced to five life sentences in an unprecedented judgement in October last year by Justice Leighton Pusey in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.
For taking the lives of Kimesha Wright, Kimanda Smith, Shara-lee Smith, and Raphaella Smith, and Kishawn Henry, Barnett is serving a life sentence on each count with eligibility for parole after 61 years and eight months. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Capital punishment remains on the books in Jamaica but may only apply in certain aggravated murder convictions; however, there have been no executions since 1988.