Ja strongman Zekes gets life

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Matthews Lane strongman Donald ‘Zekes’ Phipps who ruled sections of downtown Kingston, Jamaica, with an iron fist for over a decade will spend his next 30 years in prison.

Justice Horace Marsh yesterday ordered that he should serve the full term before being eligible for parole, for a double murder in 2005. The life sentences were similar for each count and will run concurrently.

“But will he be able to outlive that sentence, because he looks so frail?” a policeman commented shortly after the sentence was handed down.

Donald ‘Zekes’ Phipps, 49, stared blankly into space as he was humbled by the life sentence ordered by Justice Horace Marsh.

The Matthews Lane don, attired in a black suit, white shirt, and a gold chain, and who once wielded sweeping authority over sections of downtown Kingston, will serve 30 years before being eligible for parole.

The Home Circuit Court was packed with policemen who turned up to hear the sentence. There was also a strong presence of soldiers and policemen in the precincts of the courthouse. But, downtown Kingston was peaceful yesterday and Phipps’ supporters were nowhere to be seen.

The former area leader was convicted of the murder of Rodney Leroy Farquharson and Dayton ‘Scotchbrite’ Williams, both of Bayshore Park, east Kingston. Their burnt bodies, with gunshot wounds, were found on April 15 last year in an open lot on Rose Lane, downtown Kingston.

Defence lawyer, K. Churchill Neita, Q.C., made an impassioned plea for Phipps, who is the father of 15 children, to be spared a long stretch in prison. Mr. Neita emphasised that when Phipps came for trial, he was already demonised by the press and certain influences, including ‘foreign forces’. He said many people were surprised to learn that Phipps did not have any previous convictions.

Mr. Neita said there was evidence at the trial, which the prosecution did not challenge, that when the men were shot they were fighting over ganja.

“It seems evident that, had they been upstanding citizens, they would not have found themselves in Matthews Lane involved in something that was questionable,” he said.

He asked the judge to consider the evidence given, yesterday by character witnesses.

Norman Lawrence, who runs a meat and grocery business on Matthews Lane; Anthony East-wood, who operates a wholesale box juice business on Luke Lane, downtown Kingston; and Samuel Mitchell, carpenter and bar operator at 36 South Parade, downtown Kingston, spoke highly of Phipps.

They all described him as helpful and kind, and praised him for his ability to resolve disputes peacefully and for bringing stability to the community.

When Eastwood was asked by Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, if Phipps were like a judge or adjudicator in the community, he said: “No, no, no. He did not make a decision. He tried and worked it out between the parties.”

The judge, in sentencing Phipps, told him that whether or not Farquharson and Williams were angels, the law said they were entitled to their lives. The judge said he took into account the character evidence, the mitigation plea and the fact that Phipps had no previous conviction.

Justice Marsh, in referring to the evidence, said the lives of two Jamaicans were snuffed out. He said they were shot and killed and, if that were not enough, they were placed on to tyres and set ablaze.

“There is no evidence as to what was your part in it, but the jury having heard the evidence believed that you were part of what happened that night in the death of those two gentlemen,” the judge said.

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