That Dantay Brooks, the son of dancehall artiste Mavado, had prior run-ins with the law and was out on bail in relation to one of two offences when he instigated the 2018 shooting murder of his childhood ally Lorenzo “Israel” Thomas in Cassava Piece, St Andrew, led to the conclusion that he had “scant regard for the system of justice”.
“Being before the court is supposed to be a caution, and you would need to govern yourself accordingly...whether or not the matter for which he was before the court was an act of violence it would mean he would need to behave himself; it shows his character...it is showing a pattern which is 'It's not my fault, I didn't do anything and I will continue to do as I please,' ” Supreme Court Judge Justice Leighton Pusey said yesterday.
The observation was one of several prefacing the sentencing of Brooks and his co-accused, Andre Hinds, to life behind bars for that murder, in which the two — who were in the company of three others — torched the home of the victim, resulting in Thomas's body being burnt beyond recognition, and his father, who witnessed the incident, having to flee.
In the judgement, handed down yesterday, Brooks, who was 16 at the time of the murder, will serve 22 years before being eligible for parole.
He was also sentenced to 20 years for illegal possession of firearm and 15 years for arson.
His co-accused, Hinds, who was 23 at the time of the incident, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. He will not be eligible for parole before 17 years. He was also sentenced to 15 years at hard labour for illegal possession of firearm and 15 years at hard labour for arson.
Both received discounts for time already spent in custody.
Yesterday, Justice Pusey, in handing down the sentences, said he had considered the fact that Brooks was a child at the time of the incident, but noted that, despite the age, the penalty for the offence of murder was life based on the law.
He noted further that other aggravating factors such as it being a “gun murder”, a “deliberate act, a home invasion for the express purpose of killing”, and a “case where not just the body but the house itself was burnt” were key points in determining the sentence.
He noted, too, that Brooks' answers when asked about the impact of his actions on his old neighbourhood and on the family members of the victim was far removed from that of Hinds, who said he was not guilty, but said he was sorry for the way Thomas died, as he was a friend.
“I note when he was asked about the impact, Mr Hinds said he was sorry. Mr Brooks said he was not guilty and the impact on the community and relatives was not a fault of his,” Justice Pusey said.
“That, for me, was a theme throughout his social enquiry report,” he said, noting that Brooks had the opportunity of attending “a very outstanding preparatory school [and] went to one of the oldest high schools, and yet in all these circumstances this is where we find him [before a court of law].
“He is not taking responsibility,” Justice Pusey said before going on to point out that Brooks was the one to indicate that Thomas “fi dead”, and was the one to remind the others at the scene that “somebody want the head”.
“Even though he was not the main actor, he was crucial, not a mere bystander; he was crucial to this,” Justice Pusey said.
He also said his “dilemma” where Brooks was concerned was that, with 35 years as a starting point, it would mean he would be “a man in his 50s” before he left the prison system. In the end Brooks benefited from a discount of 12 years on account of his age, and a further deduction of one year for the time he had already spent in custody, leaving him at 22 years before parole.
As it related to Hinds, Justice Pusey yesterday said he was in a “slightly better position” in terms of his involvement, as he was “not the most active, was not the instigator, not the chief actor, and was not armed”. He said, while Hinds had maintained his innocence, he “did indicate some amount of remorse in terms of the life of the deceased”.
Justice Pusey indicated that the starting point for Hinds' sentence in respect of the murder would be 30 years. He benefited from a discount of 10 years on account of his age at the time of the murder, and a deduction of three years for the time already spent in custody, leaving him at the 17 years before parole for the murder charge.
“This is an unfortunate case in the sense that nobody wants to send any more young men to prison; unfortunately, our prisons have too many young men already,” Justice Pusey said yesterday.
Brooks was represented by attorneys Peter Champagnie, QC; Oswest Senior-Smith; and Tamika Harris, while Hinds attorney Kemar Robinson as counsel.
Champagnie, in his plea and mitigation address, urged the judge to consider, among other things, the fact that Brooks had no previous convictions and that, based on the social enquiry report, he was the product of failed parenting and instability, living between two residences, with no real supervision, and was subject to peer pressure. These factors combined, the attorney said, were a “recipe for disaster”.
Robinson, in his address to the court, pleaded for leniency for his client, arguing that he had played a “secondary role”.
Yesterday, Brooks sat silently, his darting eyes alert above his mask, his arms clutching his midsection, twitching his splayed knees rhythmically throughout.
Hinds, for his part, was unmoving, his forehead creasing momentarily when a statement detailing the pain of Thomas's family was read. Moments before being sentenced he rubbed his hands over his face before ducking his head, his eyes suspiciously wet.