CONCERNS by defence attorneys over “fresh” details contained in a victim impact statement from the father of the man allegedly murdered by Dantay Brooks — son of dancehall artiste Mavado — and co-accused Andre Hinds yesterday interrupted the planned sentencing of the two.
Brooks and Hinds were in January this year found guilty of the 2018 murder of Lorenzo “Israel” Thomas in Cassava Piece, St Andrew, as well as arson.
The two — who were tried before Supreme Court Judge Justice Leighton Pusey for the murder of Thomas, who was shot on June 5, 2018 and his body burnt beyond recognition after his house was set alight — were to be sentenced yesterday.
However, defence attorneys representing the men questioned the legality of the victim impact statement as it related to that particular case and also expressed concern that the statement contained some material which may imply other illegal acts by the defendants which would place them in an unfair position since they would be unable to challenge, as it comes after the trial. They further argued that “new assertions” made in the statement had the possibility to influence the sentence handed down eventually.
Brooks is represented by attorneys Peter Champagnie, QC; Oswest Senior-Smith; and Tamika Harris. Hinds is represented by Kemar Robinson.
Champagnie, leading the charge yesterday, said, “The fear that we have is that the document in question indicated to me certain things that go beyond the perimeters of what a victim impact statement is to be about. The context of this document is making entirely new assertions and allegations that were never before a feature of the evidence in this particular case, and what is even more exacerbating is that this victim impact statement comes from the very witness who gave evidence in this matter and who is now, through this statement, raising additional things that were never a feature of his testimony. So to that extent it would be unfair”.
He also questioned the legal basis on which the victim impact statement was being allowed in this case, pointing out that although the Plea Negotiation Act contemplates such, he does not know of it in any other legislation and further queried the basis on which the Crown was using the material.
Prosecutors, however, rebutted, noting that victim impact statements were not new in this jurisdiction.
On the issue of the information in the statement being prejudicial, one senior prosecutor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said, “The very reason the statement was served on my friends long before today’s date was for them to have a look at the document and say to us this line, that paragraph needs to be edited and that can be done even today, but I do not believe it should be put aside just like that, it is certainly not new, it is not different and there is nothing unusual about it.”
Justice Pusey, commenting on the concerns, said: “I do not think that the fact that the victim impact statement is not mentioned in any other legislation is an indication that the legislature is saying such a statement does not properly arise.”
He, however, conceded that the concern of the defence that the statement should not contain information outside of what pertains to the case in question was valid.
“Mr Champagnie is correct that to do so would be unfair. It would give the person an opportunity to get before the court material that would not have been relevant in the trial and would not have been relevant in relation to the rules of evidence and prejudice the court in having a larger sentence based on this prejudicial and/or irrelevant material. And so it is necessary that the victim impact statement be edited to ensure that these sort of things would be kept out,” Justice Pusey said.
In adjourning, Justice Pusey said the Crown and the defence should pore over the document in question to settle the issue and also use the opportunity to go over the social enquiry report which had been late in coming.
“If there is material for which there is some dispute then it may come before the court for it to decide. The court is always able to determine, even though the matter is prejudicial, whether or not it would be considered, so the court as the final arbiter can determine that,” he stated.
He said the downtime would also allow for the attorneys, after going through the material, to possibly bring witnesses if necessary.
The two were remanded and are expected to be sentenced on March 19 at 2:00 pm.