Murder sentence could depend on age

Chakane Scott was 18 when fatal shooting occurred

Chakane Jameile Scott, known as CJ, appeared in Grand Court on Friday to be sentenced more than four years after he was found guilty of murdering Asher McGaw in East End in September 2011.

After hearing submissions based on the fact that Scott was 18 at the time of the fatal shooting, Justice Alexander Henderson reserved his decision until April 21.

Mr. McGaw was 21 when he died. He, Scott and a 17-year-old were friends and had been out socializing. No motive for the shooting was ever identified. Scott’s conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2013.

At the time he was found guilty, in June 2012, the only sentence for murder was life imprisonment. Since then, the Conditional Release Law has come into effect. It states that a person serving a life sentence must serve 30 years before he/she is eligible for conditional release unless there are extenuating or aggravating circumstances, exceptional in nature, in which case the judge may impose a shorter or longer sentence.

In her submissions, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards noted that in this law, a child is someone under the age of 18 years. The regulations set out extenuating circumstances that may be relevant to the offense of murder. Eight such factors are listed, including “the age of the offender.”

Scott turned 18 on June 7, 2011. The murder occurred on Sept. 22, 2011.

Justice Henderson commented that if the murder had occurred before Scott turned 18, he would have been dealt with as a child and held “at the court’s pleasure.”

Justice Henderson asked if age is an exceptional circumstance. Ms. Richards replied that it was unusual – “It certainly stands out” – and was clearly a matter for the judge to consider.

Scott’s lead counsel at his trial, Sasha Wass, pointed out that along with age, there was also the question of maturity, which involves insight and understanding. U.K. cases recognize that an 18-year-old will be less mature than someone who is 21, she said.

By her calculation, Scott was 18 years, three months and 15 days old at the time of the shooting.

Scott, who elected trial by judge alone, did not give evidence, Ms. Wass noted, so Justice Henderson was not able to consider his level of maturity at the time. Now, five years later, it would be impossible, she said.

Justice Henderson, who retired from the bench, was reappointed to deal with the murder sentences for persons convicted when he was their trial judge.

It was in the recent case of Tareek Ricketts that Justice Henderson said the use of a firearm was not an aggravating circumstance, since four of the six cases he was dealing with had involved a firearm. He determined that Ricketts, 21 at the time of the shooting of Jackson Rainford, should serve 30 years before being eligible for conditional release.

He has yet to deal with sentencings for Trevino Bodden, Chad Anglin, Brian Borden and Brian Powell.

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