Last update: 11-Dec-2013 4:05 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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3 challenge no parole sentence
The Appeal Court has reserved its decision in a landmark appeal of three men who pleaded guilty to murdering a La Horquetta taxi driver and were given life sentences “without the possibility of parole.” The three appellate judges reserved their decision after hearing submissions in the appeal which was brought by Alexander Don Juan Nicholas, 36, Gregory Tan, 35, and Oren Lewis, 31, who are challenging their sentences.
Appellate Paula Mae-Weekes said the appeal would set a precedent and that the panel hoped to return with their judgment by December. “This is a judgment that will be very instructive in the future,” Weekes said. The other members were Appellate Justices Alice Yorke Soo-Hon and Rajendra Narine. In their appeal, the trio’s attorneys contended that the sentence passed on them did not exist as there was no provision for parole in local legislation.
They also claimed that life sentences should only be given in cases where the crimes could be classified as the “worst of the worst” or the “rarest of the rare.” Attorney Jagdeo Singh, who is representing Tan, claimed the trio should have been sentenced to 25 years in prison. He, however, noted that the court should still send a strong message in the case as the victim was a taxi driver.
“Taxi drivers form an important part of society. In rural communities, taxis play an important part in public transportation which may be lacking,” Singh said. Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, who represented the State, agreed that the trio’s sentence was too harsh and suggested that it be varied to a sentence of 35 years imprisonment.
However, she said the court should discount the ten years the trio spent in remand while awaiting trial and the fact that they all had positive probation officer’s reports which stated that they were capable of being reformed. In December, last year, the trio was allowed to plead guilty to murdering Jerry David Boodoo on a day unknown between August 26 and September 2, 2002. This was the first time in T&T’s history that prisoners were allowed to plead guilty to murder which carries the mandatory death penalty.
Their pleas fell under the felony/murder rule which was developed in a Privy Council judgment in 2011 and allows a judge to bypass the mandatory sentence and pass a sentence while considering a number of aggravating and mitigating factors. According to the State’s case in their trial before Justice Andre des Vignes, the trio, along with another man, boarded Boodoo’s vehicle in Arima and pretended to be passengers and then hijacked him.
Nicholas drove Boodoo’s car while the other two beat him in the back seat. Tan and Lewis used Boodoo’s belt to choke him. They put his body in the trunk and went to the gas station where they bought snacks with the $63 they stole from him. They then threw his body into the Mayaro river. Keith Scotland and Asha Watkins-Montserin represented Nicholas while Daniel Khan appeared for Lewis.
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