Leonard Antonio Ebanks was sentenced on Tuesday to 34 years’ imprisonment for the Sept. 8, 2010 murder of Tyrone Burrell in a yard at Birch Tree Hill, West Bay.
Mr. Ebanks listened quietly as Justice Charles Quin set out the facts of the fatal shooting and then explained the aggravating features he found that raised the 30-year sentence prescribed by the Conditional Release Law.
When Mr. Ebanks was found guilty after a judge-alone trial, the only penalty for murder in Cayman was life imprisonment. The new law, which came into effect in February 2016, requires that everyone who had a life sentence imposed must be given a determinate or specific sentence.
Mr. Ebanks did not complain about the 34 years, but he observed that Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards had said it helped inmates to be good in prison, but that was “only at the end” when they could apply to the Conditional Release Board to be released on license after serving their specific sentence.
Justice Quin agreed, pointing to the section stating that at the sentencing hearing, which Mr. Ebanks had just completed, evidence of the prisoner’s behavior in prison after the life sentence was imposed “is not admissible.” Mr. Ebanks indicated that this did not seem fair. He referred to a particular inmate who served 20 years and then got out “because of all the things he did.”
The person he was speaking of had applied to the governor of the Cayman Islands for release under the old Prisons Law. The judge explained that this provision in the Prisons Law no longer had effect once the Conditional Release Law came into force, and he was obliged to pass sentence under the law as it now is.
In his summary of facts and conclusion, the judge noted that Mr. Burrell was shot once in the back of the head.
“It was a public execution, chillingly clinical in planning and execution,” he said.
Mr. Burrell was 20 at the time, Mr. Ebanks, 39. The motive was said to be Mr. Ebanks’ belief that the younger man was “a spy, passing information to the Logwoods gang,” a reference to another area of West Bay.
Mr. Ebanks was seen by the maid in the household as he passed outside her door some five seconds or so before the gunshot; he was then seen by a neighbor as he was leaving the property seconds after the gunshot. Both women knew him.
During the trial, Justice Quin had visited the location of the shooting, along with attorneys and court staff, walking around the house and through the yard. He indicated he was satisfied that the time frames estimated by the women were consistent with the lay of the land.
In his reasons for sentencing, Justice Quin said significant planning and premeditation had been involved, from the obtaining of a firearm to dressing all in black and wearing a handkerchief around his hand to absorb gunshot residue.
The judge said he was satisfied that Mr. Ebanks had tried to intimidate the neighbor, making comments that frightened her and referring to her children by their names. The judge was satisfied that the murder was gang related.
The final consideration was Mr. Ebanks’ record of previous convictions, which the law required him to take into account. Mr. Ebanks had 51 previous convictions, some of which were not relevant, but which did include two robberies and several assaults.
All of these factors were aggravating and merited an uplift from the prescribed 30 years to 34 years, the judge concluded.
The sentence starts from the day Mr. Ebanks was convicted, Sept. 30, 2011. He is also to received credit for any time in custody before then if he was not serving a sentence for another offense. Mr. Ebanks disagreed with the calculation of 107 days credit. The judge assured him it would be sorted out: “You will not be prejudiced,” he said.