St. John’s Antigua- A final decision on the fate of murder convicts Avie Howell and Kaniel Martin is not likely to be made until next year even after Psychiatrist Dr James King has said that both men are competent and have a capacity to face sentencing.
High Court judge Justice Richard Floyd during yesterday’s sitting, when evidence was taken on the psychiatric evaluation and the Social Inquiry Reports, said he will need time to fully consider all the submissions that would have been made by all the parties concerned.
“It is not a final decision that will be rendered on December 8, 2011. I must consider the arguments fully to be fair to both convicts,” Justice Floyd said.
Dr King in giving his evidence on his evaluation of both men had contrasting comments with more favourable remarks attributed to Martin.
In recounting his interaction with Howell, Dr King said the young man was cooperative but very guarded, which is expected.
He said, however, that persons in Howell’s position tend to warm up to the interviewer after a while and try to make some connection. This, Dr King said, did not happen in Howell’s case.
King said the Golden Grove youth did not maintain eye contact and sat in a very defensive posture, which he maintained during the interview.
In response to a question by defence attorney Maureen Payne-Hyman as to whether Howell wearing handcuffs at the time could result in his demeanor, Dr King replied in the affirmative.
The psychiatrist told the court that Howell answered all the questions and added that he interacted with his interviewers in a very cool manner. According to Dr King Howell, he came to his office casually dressed and not well groomed. Dr King testified that Howell’s appearance and attire was not unusual for someone who is incarcerated.
“He was very cool, guarded, distant. He would connect and disconnect quickly. That’s a sign of not wanting to connect to anybody.
“They (patients) tend to warm up after a while. They try to connect. That did not happen with him (Howell). Based on his history and family background and how he interacted…there is something inherently wrong with how his personality developed. But it would be unfair to him to say he has a personality disorder because I was not asked to look at that,” Dr King said.
In answer to a question by Hyman-Payne, Dr King said Howell displayed symptoms of anxiety and worried excessively about the case, which the doctor noted was normal.
King told the court it was possible that Howell’s mannerisms during the evaluation could be because he did not trust him.
He said the 21-year-old youth had a flat expressionless effect-showing no emotions and added that this behaviour was unusual in comparison to others whom he had interviewed. King admitted that this case was a first for him in that he has never evaluated a person convicted for multiple murders.
Howell, he said, is at risk of developing a personality disorder but does not have a mood disorder.
In addressing Martin’s evaluations done on October 3 and 11 respectively, the doctor described the father of one as being very friendly.
Dr King said Martin shook his hand, sat, turned and faced him and gave him direct eye contact.
As with Howell, Martin also appeared guarded, according to Dr King. He, however, said that within half an hour of the evaluation Martin’s guardedness disappeared and he connected with interviewers.
The psychiatrist testified that Martin told him that he (Martin) was frustrated and going through so much at this time.
He said Martin had a ‘Sad Affect’ (how someone’s mood appears outwardly on their face as to how they feel inside) and that his interviewers felt empathy for him.
“You actually felt for him when he left the room. You felt for him and his family. We had empathy for him.
“It (the evaluation) was in contrast to the first interview with Howell. In my profession it is acceptable for us to feel empathy so we can treat them,” Dr King told the court.
He said Martin’s mother gave him away as an infant returned again in his life at age nine or 10 and then left again. This, he said, can have an adverse effect on a child’s self-esteem.
In reply to questions by attorney Michael Archibald, who is standing in for Lead Counsel Marcus Foster who is ill, Dr King said Martin smiled with him normally and regularly. King said that in no way did he find this behaviour odd nor did it affect Martin’s responses given to him.
The psychiatrist testified that throughout the entire evaluation Martin maintained a sad demeanor and expressed some feeling of sadness for what had occurred.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Armstrong sought to find out from Dr King whether Howell and Martin are capable of reform.
While Dr King’s personal opinion was, “I think everybody has hope,” he said there were certain risk factors that would affect the men’s reformation. He outlined them to be motivation (by family or friends), age, personality disorders, arrest history, conduct disorder/delinquency, age of onset (of committing the offence), weapon availability, social support (from the home), major psychosis (which he says neither man has) and substance abuse. The doctor says both men have a history of cannabis and drinking alcohol from an early age.
Armstrong made his submissions yesterday paving the way for defence counsel to make their plea of mitigation on behalf of the murder convicts next week (December 8).
Armstrong told the court to disregard any negative comments or opinions that might have been canvassed in the Social Inquiry Reports.
Howell’s report spoke to past bad behaviour, of his associating with persons of questionable character and the fact that he has several other matters pending before the court.
Martin’s report also links him with persons of questionable character; lying to protect friends; fathering a child at age 17 and sneaking out of the house.
The DPP told Justice Floyd that sentencing was entirely a matter for the Court’s discretion.
“I do not find myself able to cite any legal authority or any supporting law that the prosecution can fetter the Court’s discretion of sentencing…not even Parliament.
“The Court must look at the punishment that needs to be meted out to these convicts and the Court must also look at prevention and rehabilitation,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that the Court must address its mind to the four classical principles of sentencing-retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation and prevention when deciding on a sentence.
According to the DPP, the Court may look at the ultimate penalty or sanction-the death penalty, life imprisonment or any sentence at the Court’s pleasure.
The DPP said that if the Court is to consider the death penalty then the standard set out by a higher Court must be adhered to.
The death penalty, he said, must only be applied in the most exceptional circumstances. It requires special justification, and must require a case of the worse of the worse and the rarest of the rarest.
Armstrong also said that if the court thinks that there is no reasonable prospect of reform for the offender or the object of punishment cannot be achieved by any other means as outlined in legal authorities, only then a penalty of death can be considered.
According to the DPP, the character of the offenders or any other circumstance that go in their favour during mitigation must be taken into account.
He said the Court, based on a Privy Council ruling, must not take into account what society regards as a case of the worse of the worse, but must look at other cases of a similar nature.
“My memory fails me to find any mitigating factors during the trial. The judge must weigh the mitigating and aggravating circumstances when considering the death penalty and weigh it against what the Privy Council says.
“All three murders were unprovoked. They took place in the privacy of the person’s home or property. The court must consider this and any other factor relating to the prisoners,” Armstrong said.
Howell and Martin were convicted for the murders of three people-British couple Benjamin and Catherine Mullany and Woneta Anderson.
Benjamin and Catherine were shot in their cottage while on their honeymoon at Coco’s Resort on July 27, 2008. Anderson, a Jamaican national, was killed in her Browne’s Avenue shop on August 8, 2008. Her body was stumbled upon by her boyfriend Stephan Christian.