Chakane Jameile “CJ” Scott will serve at least 28 years after being found guilty of murdering Asher McGaw in East End on the night of Sept. 22, 2011.
Scott received his sentence on Friday from Justice Alexander Henderson.
The judge explained that Scott had been convicted on June 12, 2012. At the time, the only sentence for murder was life imprisonment. Since then, the Conditional Release Law has been passed; it sets a minimum term of 30 years before a person convicted of murder can apply for release from prison. The 30-year term can be adjusted upward or downwards if there are aggravating or extenuating circumstances that are exceptional in nature.
Justice Henderson emphasized that the minimum term only sets the earliest date at which an offender could apply for release, but the law “says nothing about whether he should be released on that date, at a later date, or not at all.”
He accepted the argument of defense counsel Sasha Wass that Scott’s age was an exceptional circumstance – he was 18 years three months and two weeks old when the fatal shooting occurred.
At a sentencing hearing on April 7, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards noted that under the Conditional Release 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.”
Justice Henderson commented at the time 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.”
Ms. Richards also provided a list of 22 men convicted of murder in Cayman and the age at which each committed his offense. Justice Henderson said the information had been helpful – it showed the median age to be 25; the average age, 27. In addition to Scott, one other offender had committed murder at age 18. The next youngest was 20.
“These facts satisfy me that Mr. Scott’s young age is relatively unusual or uncommon, and therefore exceptional in nature. As a consequence, I am able to view his age as an extenuating circumstance,” Justice Henderson said.
He pointed out that age was not strictly relevant to sentencing, but it provided an indication of a person’s maturity, insight and understanding. He referred to a U.K. case in which the court had said “young offenders are more likely to be impulsive, unthinking, and respond to situations with excessive and gratuitous force.”
Scott, who had chosen to be tried by judge alone, did not give evidence at his trial.
As a result, Justice Henderson said, there was “virtually nothing on the record (other than his age) from which I might draw an inference about his level of maturity, insight and understanding at the time of the offense. There is nothing from which I can infer a motive to kill. Nevertheless … it is reasonable to conclude from his age alone that his level of maturity, insight and understanding was likely less than that of a fully developed, mature adult. That is the extenuating circumstance that merits some recognition. I consider that a reduction of two years from the norm is appropriate.”
The judge found no other extenuating or aggravating circumstances.
Scott and his victim, who was 21 at the time, had been friends. They had been out socializing the night of the shooting, accompanied by another friend, 17. The teen gave an eyewitness account of the incident and other independent evidence supported and confirmed what he said. Scott’s conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2013.
The 244 days he spent in custody before his conviction are to be taken into account in calculating the 28 years.