MONTEGO BAY, St James — A bemused shake of her head and a wry laugh heavily tinged with resignation and disappointment were Natasha Roach’s first reaction when asked how she felt about her son’s killer being given a sentence of four years and 10 months.
“I believe him shoulda get more sentence, you know, but there’s nothing I can do. That’s what they said,” she told the Jamaica Observer outside a Montego Bay courthouse on Monday.
She had travelled from Deeside in nearby Trelawny to see justice being meted out to the 17-year-old who killed her child, Khamal Hall. Her son was 16 years old when he died.
On Monday, Roach struggled to accept what she thought was an unfair end to her family’s harrowing ordeal.
“It was very disappointing,” she said. “Fi take a life and then [get] four years 10 months, no sah, nuh fair, but there is nothing we can do.”
The boy’s paternal aunt Allison Hall was just as bemused by the sentence.
“Just 23 year old and him deh back here, ennuh,” she said of the age the convicted teen could be released from jail. “[Meanwhile], Khamal deh under the earth,” she lamented. “My brother keep being in and out of the hospital because of this. It hasn’t been easy, but God is the ultimate judge of everything.”
In handing down her ruling, High Court Justice Andrea Thomas said among the factors she had taken into consideration were the age of the accused, his guilty plea as well as the findings of a psychologist. The boy’s name is being withheld as he is a minor.
“I’ve done as I’m required to ensure there is an adequate balance, an adequate mix that the sentence I arrive at is appropriate and just. I will also, in this sentencing, apply the aggravating and mitigating circumstances,” Justice Thomas said to the teenager as he stood before her to hear his fate.
Despite defence attorney Marisa Dalrymple Philibert’s impassioned plea for a non-custodial sentence, Justice Thomas made it clear that the nature of the crime would not allow for that and it would cause “public outrage”.
It was her responsibility, she said, “to ensure that some amount of deterrence is attached” to her ruling.
The young man remained expressionless throughout the proceedings but at times shared a quick word with his attorney.
The slain Hall had been the goalkeeper of William Knibb Memorial High School’s football team that competed in last season’s daCosta Cup competition. Team Coach Dwight Jeremiah was among those surprised by the brevity of the sentence handed down on Monday.
“It is good to know that the justice system has sentenced him,” he said. “I suspect a lot of persons in the fraternity are going to feel that four years and 10 months is quite small for such a crime, where somebody has lost their life.”
It would be hard to accept, especially for those who knew Hall, he said.
“It’s quite minimal for a murder, unless they categorise it under some other type of murder worthy for four years. Whatever they categorise it as, for us who were close to him, it certainly does not seem enough at all,” he said.
Khamal Hall was stabbed to death on March 22 during a dispute that was allegedly over a guard ring. The ring reportedly belonged to a friend of the boy who wielded the knife. The murder sent shockwaves through the country as it shone the spotlight on an increasingly popular reliance on items of jewellery that are seen as powerful protection for wearers. Guard rings, candles, oils, and other items are sometimes seized during police raids that clamp down on individuals and gangs suspected of being involved in lottery scamming.