Manslaughter sentence today

Carlos Renton Russell was scheduled to return to Grand Court this morning (2 March) for sentencing after a jury found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter by reason of provocation.

After the jury returned its verdict late Monday, Howard Hamilton QC urged the court to say that eight years was the appropriate sentence. Mr. Justice Alex Henderson said he wanted to think about all the submissions and he adjourned the matter until 9.30am today.

Russell, 42, had been charged with murdering Philip Watler, 28, at the George Town Hospital on 30 March 2005.

Mr. Justice Henderson summed up the evidence and instructed the jury on the law. He referred to Russell’s evidence.

The defendant had told the court that Watler was one of two men who shot at his house the night before, endangering the lives of his family members. He said he went to the hospital the next afternoon to speak to Sheldon Brown, who was a patient there after being shot the night of 29 March. He carried a gun and wore a bullet proof vest.

Russell said he did not intend to harm Brown but had to find out if the shooting of his house was Brown’s doing or whether his people were doing it on their own initiative. He did not intend revenge because that would have put his family in even more danger.

As he reached the ambulance bay of the hospital he saw Philip Watler and suddenly everything turned red. He could hear the baby screaming again just like the night before.

Russell maintained he pursued Watler through the hospital because he wished to make a citizen’s arrest. He said he saw Watler thrust his hand into his waist and he assumed Watler was going to produce a gun.

The judge instructed the jurors that, if they thought Russell was or may have been acting in self-defence, he was entitled to be found not guilty.

In fact, the first decision the jury had to make was whether the shots or a shot fired by Carlos Russell were or was a substantial contributing cause of Watler’s death. If they were not sure, they had to acquit him.

If they were sure, they were to then go on and consider self-defence. If they were not sure whether Russell acted in self-defence or they were sure that he did, they had to acquit him.

If they were sure it was not self-defence, they then had to consider provocation. That is, did the things said or done cause him to lose self-control? Would those things cause the ordinary reasonable person to do what he did?

If they did not accept provocation, the verdict would be guilty of murder. If they did accept provocation, the verdict would be guilty of manslaughter by reason of provocation.

The jury’s verdict was by a majority of 10 – 2. The law requires a unanimous verdict for murder; not less than nine for manslaughter.

The law further prescribes a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for manslaughter, but that is not mandatory.

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