DPP says judge spot on with Cocoa Piece murder sentence

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, KC, has described as “spot on” the ruling of Supreme Court Judge Justice Leighton Pusey who on Thursday handed 23-year-old convict Rushane Barnett five life sentences for the slaying of his cousin and her four children in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon, in June this year.

The DPP, on June 28, had served notice of her intention to ask for the death penalty for Barnett when he was convicted. That notice was, however, withdrawn as the self-confessed murderer indicated that he intended to plead guilty when he made his first court appearance.

During Barnett’s sentencing hearing in September, Llewellyn in addressing the judge, said it would “shock the public’s conscience” if the court went below the 60 years and nine months in sentencing the guilty man.

In urging the judge to view the case as the “worst example”, the DPP, at the time, said the prosecution could not find case law in Jamaica where five people were killed by one individual at the same location. She emphasised that since no such case has been prosecuted in Jamaica before, the judge would be setting a precedent in the judgement he hands down.

On Thursday, Justice Pusey, in making his ruling, told Barnett that for the lives of 31-year-old Kimesha Wright, her children 15-year-old Kimanda Smith; 11-year-old Shara-Lee Smith, five-year-old Rafaella Smith and 23-month- old Kishawn Henry, he would serve a life sentence on each count with eligibility for parole after 61 years and eight months. Those sentences will run concurrently.

The DPP, speaking with the media shortly after the ruling was handed down at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston, said, “I believe the judge was spot on in how he dealt with it. He properly considered the aggravating factors, the mitigating factors. I thought that was the correct starting point according to law and he answered the call of history when he recognised as we did that there was no legal precedent for a case of this nature, and especially at a time in Jamaica where you have several multiple murders being committed.”

The DPP, in commending the attorneys and the police as well as members of the public who supplied statements regarding Barnett, said the case was an example of what community resolve can accomplish.

“The community of Cocoa Piece, Clarendon, and the community in Trelawny rose to the occasion and assisted the police because within a day the police were able to find the knife and the shorts, and the members of the community identified it. Members of the community were able to say, ‘he was speaking to us the day before and he said he was going to kill people’, and by the time he went to Trelawny again members of the community were able again to put him in a situation that he had to surrender to the police,” she argued.

“So, Jamaica has to understand that what is right about Jamaica is when members of the community speak about what they have seen and what they know, if you are going to subscribe to the ‘I don’t want to be an informer mentality’, that is how you allow wrongdoers to get away. When the police have the cooperation of the community, they are able to resolve cases much quicker and this case is one such example,” the DPP noted.

The bodies of Wright and her four children, all of New Road, Cocoa Piece, Chapelton district in Clarendon, were discovered inside their home with chop wounds and their throats slashed on the morning of Tuesday, June 21, by another relative. Barnett reportedly fled the area to Wilson Run in Trelawny, where he was apprehended. He was charged three days later following a caution statement he gave to the police.

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