Chief Justice Anthony Smellie sentenced Devon Jermaine Anglin on Friday to 30 years’ imprisonment for the murder of Carlo Webster inside the Next Level Night Club in the early hours of Sept. 10, 2009.
Mr. Webster, 35, was shot once in the head at close range and twice in his body, with one bullet passing through Mr. Webster and hitting another man in the abdomen.
Of the estimated 300 people present in the dimly lit club, only one came forward as a witness to the shooting. That person and one other were granted witness anonymity, testifying from an unknown location with their voices electronically altered. The chief justice heard the matter without a jury, at Mr. Anglin’s choice. The trial took place in December 2011 and the guilty verdict came on Jan. 20, 2012, when Mr. Anglin received the only sentence available at the time – life imprisonment.
Since then, the Conditional Release Law has required judges to pass a sentence of a specific number of years instead of “life.” For murder, that sentence must be 30 years, unless there is some aggravating or extenuating circumstance that could lower or raise that sentence.
One of the circumstances Chief Justice Smellie considered in detail was the impact of the murder on Mr. Webster’s family.
He said he was asked to consider a letter from Mr. Webster’s mother, who spoke of the tremendous loss she and Mr. Webster’s children were suffering. She believed that Mr. Anglin remained a threat to society and implored the court to reinstate the sentence of life imprisonment.
“The terrible impact of his offense must always be brought home to the offender, and the victims and the public have a right to be assured that the real severity of his offense will be reflected in any sentence imposed,” the chief justice observed.
He pointed out that the sentence must satisfy the requirements of retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.
But the Conditional Release Law, passed in 2014, and the Regulations, which took effect as of Feb. 15, 2016, did not make clear how the court at this stage should account for a victim impact statement as an aggravating circumstance that is exceptional in nature, so as to increase the 30-year sentence.
“One may assume that the legislature, in setting the normative minimum period of 30 years, would have had regard to the likelihood that relatives, sadly often including minor dependent children, would be deeply impacted by an offense of murder,” he said.
Otherwise, the list of circumstances spelled out in the sentencing guidelines would have included victim impact, but it does not.
The law does define “victim” to include spouse and dependents. It also refers to victim impact statements, reports and representations, but all as matters for the [Conditional Release] Board to take into consideration when considering the later release on license of an offender, the chief justice said.
The judge said this was consistent with the fact that “in many cases, the real impact upon a victim surviving the deceased, such as a minor child, will be realized and become manifest only sometime after the conviction and sentence of the offender.”
Further, he noted, although the children’s loss of their father and the mother’s loss of her son were “terribly sad and tragic,” it could not be truly regarded as exceptional in nature.
For that reason, he had to assume that this consequence was already reflected in the 30-year mandatory minimum.
The chief justice detailed his consideration of other submissions brought to his attention, including Mr. Anglin’s difficult upbringing, a serious attack against him when he was 19, and his mental state at the time of the shooting, when he was 23. The psychiatrist who examined him said Mr. Anglin “was not suffering from an abnormality of mind that would have substantially impaired his mental responsibility” for the murder.
He found that the shooting by Mr. Anglin was not in the heat of rage, but was retribution by way of a “gangland style” execution, which was aimed not only at Mr. Webster “but also intimidation of his associates and reckless as to whether or not anyone else was hurt.”
The chief justice said this view of Mr. Anglin’s behavior was borne out by his admissions to the psychiatrist as to his reasons for shooting Mr. Webster – feelings of betrayal and fear of reprisal.
An increase in sentence for Mr. Anglin could be rationalized, the chief justice agreed, but he also had to consider Mr. Anglin’s potential for rehabilitation.
After consideration of all the circumstances, he found no compelling reason to interfere with the statutory minimum of 30 years and that was what he imposed.