Seven years for manslaughter

Steve Brown sentenced for killing Jack Forbes

Steve Madiho Brown, 36, was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years imprisonment after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of Jack Kennedy Forbes on 1 October 2010. The plea was on the basis of provocation. 

Cause of death for Forbes, 49, was blunt head trauma. Crown Counsel Laura Manson said Brown stomped on Forbes’ head about 14 times. 

After the Crown’s case was summarised, Defence Attorney Timothy Spencer set out details of the ways in which he said Brown had been provoked both verbally and physically. He emphasised that Forbes had stabbed Brown twice in the abdomen and both injuries required stitches or sutures. 

Justice Karl Harrison passed sentence after hearing facts and mitigation last Friday, when Ms Manson advised that the incident took place in the vicinity of Plaza Odessa in Bodden Town some time after 5pm. Forbes was already there when Brown arrived by car with three other men. While holding a block or brick, Brown was observed to confront Forbes about money owed. A struggle ensued between the two men and Forbes was seen taking a knife from his back pocket or waistband and stabbing Brown twice. 

Ms Manson said CCTV captured images of Forbes running away from Brown and being pursued by him. Another person allegedly threw a rock at Forbes, striking him in the neck and causing him to fall to the ground. Brown approached Forbes and kicked him. Brown then lifted his shirt and proceeded to stomp on Forbes’ head several times. 

Brown then walked away, but came back to where Forbes was lying. He again examined his side and then raised his foot again, bringing it down of the head of the victim several more times, Ms Manson said. She called the attack vicious and sustained, submitting that the degree of provocation was low. 

An autopsy report indicated that the blunt trauma came from Forbes’ head being repeatedly compressed against the hard abrasive surface, which lacerated his brain. 

Mr. Spencer, assisted by Attorney Nicola Moore, noted that Brown turned himself in to police two days after the incident. He described the characters of the two men, saying they had become fairly friendly while in prison. Forbes was known to carry a weapon regularly and use it; he had recently completed a sentence for manslaughter. Over the years, Forbes became dependent on cocaine and expected his family to support his habit. 

On 1 October, the attorney continued, Forbes was calling one of his sisters for money. One had already given him $25 that day; the other had given him $50 that day. The evidence was that Forbes was known as a beggar and a nuisance who had been banned from the plaza, which was why he usually went onto the open lot across from it. 

Brown was one of the people who had given Forbes money on occasion, Mr. Spencer said. When Brown went to the plaza that evening, he and Forbes entered into a friendly conversation. Then Forbes asked him for money and Brown declined. That prompted a disrespectful remark from Forbes about Brown’s wife. Brown picked up what a witness described as half a block and said he would “diss” Forbes with it. “He knew it was not wise to remonstrate with Forbes without a weapon,” Mr. Spencer asserted.  

Another man present begged Brown to leave Forbes alone and Brown threw the rock/block away. He was therefore unarmed when the two men grappled and when Forbes drew a knife.  

“My client accepts he lost control … [and] what he did was unlawful,” Mr. Spencer told the court.  

Justice Harrison referred to all these factors in his sentencing remarks. Additionally, he noted details from Brown’s social inquiry report, which referred to a substance abuse problem from age 14. Of considerable significance, he said, was Brown’s unhappy history, with a mother who acted aggressively toward him and encouraged his drug-dealing lifestyle. Previous convictions included grievous bodily harm. 

The judge found there was a low degree of provocation and said sentencing should start at 12 years before he considered factors in Brown’s favour. They included his guilty plea and expression of remorse. Brown had handed up a letter in which he said he was sorry for taking Forbes’ life and he wanted to lend a helping hand to Forbes’ family when he would be allowed to.  

Brown had been charged with murder and the judge said he was wise to plead to manslaughter because he could not have succeeded with a defence of self-defence. 

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