A mother who on one occasion had to sneak through violence-wracked Pink Lane in Denham Town, Kingston wearing a bath towel to hide her street clothes just to attend court to give evidence against her son's killer, on Tuesday described the life sentence handed down to him as "clean justice".
The convicted man, Oneil Chambers, who pleaded guilty to the offences of illegal possession of firearm and murder, was sentenced to 30 years at hard labour for the gun crime, and life imprisonment for the murder, with eligibility for parole after serving 22 years, by Supreme Court Judge Justice Leighton Pusey at the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston. The sentences will run concurrently.
Justice Pusey, in noting that the killing was "quite brutal" and that the court could not condone his reasons for killing his friend, said he could not sentence Chambers to less than 27 years for the murder count. That 27 years was, however, whittled down to 22 years based on the fact that Chambers has already spent four years behind bars.
Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, King's Counsel, in outlining the allegations before the court, said on the morning when Horace Anderson, otherwise called Rat, was killed his mother had heard him arguing with Chambers.
The mother said she was, at the time, unable to decipher what the argument had been about.
According to the mother, she left the community for a short run to the market. While returning to the home she heard a "barrage of explosions coming from the yard". She said she then saw Chambers and another man heading up Pink Lane. Shortly after, she learned that her son had been killed.
The woman said she then asked some Jamaica Defence Force soldiers to search the yard where Chambers was and they found him hiding under a bed. When asked by the mother, "Why yuh kill mi pickney?" Chambers reportedly said he did so because Anderson was responsible for the death of another individual.
He later told the police he had heard that Anderson was planning to kill him therefore he murdered him to avoid being killed himself.
According to the mother, who told investigators that Anderson was her "best child", she now suffers from insomnia, has since been diagnosed with high blood pressure and has to be taking care of her sons two children.
In countering Chambers's account as to why he killed her son, she said the accused had wanted her son to associate with friends of ill-repute, which he refused to do, resulting in his death.
On Tuesday, Chambers's attorney Tamika Harris, in rebutting the accounts from the Crown, said Anderson was killed because he had shot at her client and his friend, and ended up being killed in what might have been "a pre-emptive strike" by her client. In noting that what her client did "was wrong", Harris said the irony was the mother declaring that her "best son was killed" as residents of the community had said he was no saint, was involved in criminal activities, and had friends who were involved in an ongoing feud with the friends of her client, which led to his demise.
In pleading for leniency, Harris told the court that her client had been beaten by the police, and the station diary in which the original entry was made had mysteriously disappeared. She said given that he was beaten, it became questionable whether his "confession" was voluntary.
Justice Pusey, in handing down the sentences, said the court could not support Chambers' actions, which amounted to "citizens taking the law into their own hands". He said the court was mindful that it was "a gun murder of a serious matter" of someone in the same community who was well known to the offender.
Chambers, clad in a striped shirt with tinges of pink, and blue jeans, sat with an inscrutable expression, barely blinking, with his hands clasped between his legs, his thumbs sparring with each other.
Anderson's mother, speaking to the Jamaica Observer afterwards, rubbished the claims by the defence attorney that her son was a gangster.
"I don't pay she no mind," she said, adding that residents of the community are living in fear and have to disappear indoors by 6:00 pm daily.
"I feel good. I have a daughter who, from his death [she] not keeping well. I get justice, I get clean justice. I prayed. I get justice," the mother, who said she has now lost two sons to gun violence, told the Observer jubilantly.