Second day Vesuvius-appeals – Prosecution demands again life for Jones and Richardson
St. Maarten – Solicitor-General Taco Stein demanded on appeal life sentences against gang leader Omar Jones and his hitman Carlos Richardson yesterday for the four murders they committed in 2011, the two attempts at manslaughter, firearm possession and membership of a criminal organization.
Jones and Richardson are the main suspects in the Vesuvius-trial. In November of last year the Court in First Instance sentenced the two men also to life imprisonment for the murders of Miguel and Rodolfo Arrindell, Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs, and for attempted manslaughter on Omax Bye and Kennedy Fergus.
For three other suspects, Erno Labega, Charles Fleming and Ekron Morgan, Stein demanded that the appeals court confirms their earlier sentences of respectively 6, 5 and 8 years. Against Donnell Thomas the prosecution demanded a 9-year sentence because unlike the Court in First Instance it considers proven that Morgan was an accomplice in the attempted manslaughter on Omax Bye.
Gang leader Omar Jones was the only one who did not appear in court yesterday. “He wishes not to appear,” Solicitor-General Stein informed the court.
The prosecution’s demand consists of close to one hundred pages that establish in great detail the involvement of all gang members in the events that resulted in 2011, after the murder of Amador Jones, in six more murders. The prosecution did not charge the defendants with the murders of Anthony White and Sheldon Thomas, but both killings are mentioned in court documents and they are related to the blistering war between the rivaling drug gangs of Omar Jones and Miguel Arrindell.
Stein devoted almost ten pages of his demand to the matter of life imprisonment – hot topic since the Vinter-arrest from the European Human Rights court in July, the appeal-rulings in the Regatta-killings and the recent ruling from St. Maarten’s Constitutional Court that declared life imprisonment unconstitutional.
The solicitor-general made the case in favor on life imprisonment. “The prosecutor’s office does not agree with the rulings from the Common Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court, because they are not supported by jurisprudence from the European Human Rights Court and the Supreme Court.”
In the so-called Regatta case, Sherwan Roberts and Curtley Allison Richards were sentenced to life in first instance, but the appeals court overturned the sentences are commuted them to 30 years on the premise that life imprisonment violated the European Human Rights Treaty because there is no perspective for future release. The court ruled that chances for a pardon are slim “because pardons for convicts that do not have a life sentence occurs only sporadically.”
Stein contested the argument: “The court could have said with the same ease (and as gratuitously) that, since no convict with a life sentence has ever died in detention, there still is a ray of hope for them.”
Stein also rejected the appeals court argument that “it cannot be said that currently there is the social or political will in St. Maarten to take the right to a pardon as the point of departure for very serious crimes.” This is an assumption, the solicitor-general noted, that cannot be sufficiently substantiated with concrete facts.
“The position of the appeals court that the possibility of a pardon is not an effective instrument to obtain a shortening of a life sentence at a certain moment, is not supported by standard jurisprudence from the Supreme Court,” Stein pointed out. “This establishes that the existence of the legal instrument of a pardon meets the requirement of the European Human rights court that it must be possible – legally and factually – to shorten life sentences at a certain moment in time. Sint Maarten has the possibility of a pardon. For this reason alone life sentences do not violate the European Human Rights Treaty.”
Stein rejected the ruling by Sint Maarten’s constitutional Court about life imprisonment as :incorrect and incomprehensible.”
The Constitutional Court furthermore ruled that the route of summary proceedings to get out of jail (based on article 43 of the code of criminal procedures) is “insufficient to establish that a convict at the time of sentencing had sufficient possibility of review with a prospect of release.” A convict has the option to follow such a procedure after a request for a pardon has been denied.
Stein said that he does not understand how the constitutional court arrived at this conclusion. “It is unclear what the basis for this judgment is, especially because such a procedure is handled by the court and the convict does not depend on a decision by the government.”
Stein furthermore referred to the ruling in the Ocean-case – the killing of Thelma and Michael King in September of last year – whereby the main suspect Meyshane Kemar Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment. “In that ruling the court also distances itself from the position of the appeals court in the Regatta-cases.”
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