ST JOHN’S, Antigua – High Court judge Justice Richard Floyd has reserved his decision against Avie Howell and Kaniel Martin, who were convicted for killing three people.
Justice Floyd said on Thursday that he will be reviewing, in depth, the submissions and authorities provided to the court by the attorneys before imposing a sentence on both men.
“I wish to take the opportunity to fully review all the authorities provided to me … As such, I am going to adjourn the case and I will reserve my decision at this time.
“I am aware of the length of time the matter took before coming to fruition, finality. I am aware of the effects this matter has had on the convicts and the family of the deceased. I assure you that I will do my utmost to render a decision and pass sentence as quickly as I can. As I said, I need time to carefully and thoroughly weigh the submissions,” Justice Floyd said after hearing mitigating pleas on behalf of both men.
Attorney-at-law Maureen Payne-Hyman in addressing the court said she endorses the arguments put forward by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Armstrong last week.
Payne-Hyman reiterated a point made by the DPP who said sentencing is never an easy task. The attorney asked the court not to penalise Howell for not testifying during the trial, which, she said, is his right under law.
“There are no winners in matters like these. There are more losers than winners. While this matter attracted international attention I am asking the court not to pay any mind to that. He (Howell) received a proper jury trial … He is a young person and based on the Probation Report, you have an indication of what his life has been up to now,” Payne-Hyman said.
She told the court that Howell was 17 at the time the offences were committed; a statement that was proven false after his birth certificate was presented to the court.
The DPP tendered the document into evidence after obtaining it from the Registry of Births and Deaths. According to the document, Howell was born September 10, 1989 and not 1990 as his mother had testified during the trial.
This would therefore rebuff initial reports that the Golden Grove youth was a juvenile at the time of the commission of the offences. In fact, based on the document, he was 18 years old in 2008. The murders were committed in July and August, shortly before his 19th birthday.
“I have a copy of the extract (birth certificate). If he was born in 1989 he would have been over the age of 18 at the time of the offences,” Armstrong said.
He told the court that under the laws of Antigua & Barbuda CAP 229 section 2 of the Juveniles Act, a juvenile means a person under the age of 16 years.
He said the Act refers to a child as being someone under the age of 14 and a young person is described as being someone who has attained the age of 14 years and not exceeding 16 years.
Payne-Hyman told the court that there were many factors that have to be taken into consideration including the type and gravity of the murders. She stressed the point that Benjamin and Dr Catherine Mullany and Woneta Anderson were shot only once.
According to Payne-Hyman, there is hope for Howell to be rehabilitated as stated by the prison officer in charge of the maximum security section at Her Majesty’s Prison.
“Each victim died from one single bullet. There is nothing to suggest he is incapable of reform or to be rehabilitated. Officer (Grant) Beggs (prison officer) said he (Howell) can be rehabilitated. He (the officer) is not an expert and it is up to you (the court) how much weight to attach to it, but I am asking you to take it into consideration.”
Attorney Michael Archibald, who again this week stood in for lead counsel Marcus Foster who is still ill, said he endorsed and adopted most of the leading authorities on the death penalty expressed by Hyman and Armstrong.
Archibald told the court that it has to balance the mitigating and aggravating factors in this case and added there has not been any indication that the incidents were premeditated.
He said no evidence was given to show who was the ringleader or the more assertive individual in committing these murders.
“There is a burden on him (the DPP) to prove every issue beyond reasonable doubt including an ability to be rehabilitated.
“He (the DPP) did not ask for the death penalty but he has left it in the hands of the court. But you (the court) must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the convicts cannot be rehabilitated,” Archibald said.
The attorney told the court that there was no evidence that any of the victims were tortured. There was no indication, he said, that the Mullanys or Anderson had any ritualistic, sadistic, demeaning, demoralising or sexual acts performed on them.
“The females were fully clothed. They (all three victims) did not die from multiple wounds. There were single wounds inflicted on the victims. The incidents should be considered as separate incidents.
“The lack of exploration by Dr (James) King (concerning the men’s ability to be reformed) again leaves us at an impasse, because we don’t know what was operating in the minds of these individuals (Howell and Martin). We are not armed with all the information of what occurred, what impacted their mind. They did not give evidence so we did not hear, so we are at an impasse where that is concerned,” Archibald said.
Archibald told the court that Dr King admitted to feeling empathy after conducting interviews with Martin which, he says, shows a possibility of rehabilitation for the father of one.
“We heard he was an exemplary family man. His expression of remorse as indicated by Dr King and his ability to help others around him, these are indications that he can be reformed. The court must take into account his character, previous good conduct, his behaviour. Nothing is known against Kaniel Martin.
“If you are not able to determine the role each individual played at any stage, any benefit to be derived by the younger participant it should extend to the other individual,” according to Archibald.
Both attorneys cited several legal authorities from the Privy Council and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal to support their submissions.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)