Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, is recommending that Rushane ‘Jett’ Barnett, the man who killed his female cousin and her four children in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon in June of this year, should be sentenced to life imprisonment instead of receiving the death penalty.
“The crown is obliged to remove the death penalty as an option,” said Llewellyn at Barnett’s sentencing hearing in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston on Thursday.
The DPP’s decision was announced after a forensic psychiatrist’s assessment of Barnett had indicated that he lacked remorse and empathy relative to the killings.
He told the psychiatrist that voices in his head had nudged him to carry out the killings.
“Rushane Barnett admits to killing the five persons, but claims voices in his head forced him to do so.
“He has no prior reported history of psychopathy, but claims he had been hearing voices since age 18 years,” the psychiatrist said in a report that was quoted in court.
Despite those revelations, the psychiatrist said the Trelawny native was fit to stand trial or to be pleaded on the criminal charges that were laid against him.
“Based on Rushane Barnett’s report and history, he was not influenced by any abnormality of the mind at the alleged offence.
“He understands the nature of the offence, but describes the incident as a result of obeah rescuing him and forcing him to act. He has no major illness, but displayed antisocial personality traits,” the report outlined.
During the audio streaming of the hearing online, Llewellyn explained that despite the lack of remorse on the convict’s part, and the viciousness of the crime, the death penalty would not be pursued.
“Everyone who pleads guilty is entitled to some amount of credit,” the island’s top prosecutor said, adding that that legal position essentially eliminates the death penalty in Barnett’s case.
In July, Barnett entered guilty pleas to five counts of murder in relation to the killings of Kimesha Wright, 31, and her children: Kimanda Smith, 15; Sharalee Smith, 10; Rafaella Smith, five; and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry Jr.
However, Llewellyn has asked that in addition to the mandatory life sentence, the 23-year-old man should serve 60 years and nine months in prison for each count of murder before being eligible for parole consideration.
She recommended that the sentences should run concurrently.
Llewellyn pointed to the ages of Wright’s children, the findings of the forensic psychiatric report, among other factors, which guided her recommendations for sentencing.
But Barnett’s attorney, Tamika Harris, told presiding judge, Justice Leighton Pusey, that he should dismiss Llewellyn’s recommendation that Barnett should not benefit from a discount in his overall sentence.
“He (Barnett) has saved the court’s time and resources,” said Harris as she asked the judge to give Barnett a 33 1/3 per cent discount in his overall sentence.
Harris also requested that the judge’s starting point for determining the parole period should be 45 years, instead of the 60 that was recommended by Llewellyn.
“… Sentencing him (Barnett) to one million years is not going to solve the underlying problems that we have in society,” Harris argued during her submissions.
Pusey has delayed Barnett’s sentencing until October 20, in order to consider the submissions that were made on Wednesday by both the prosecution and the defence.
The convict was further remanded in police custody until that date.
The killing of the five family members reportedly occurred between the night of June 20 and the early morning of June 21. The victims were found with stab wounds and their throats slashed.
At a subsequent court hearing where Barnett pleaded guilty, it was heard that he felt disrespected by Wright in front of customers some days before the killings.
In all, the five family members received a total of 95 incised wounds to their bodies – all inflicted by the convict.
The youngest among the four, little Kishawn, had 11 incised wounds, inclusive of a wound to the neck, which the doctor described as a cut throat injury, the post-mortem report said.
Barnett made his first appearance in the Home Circuit Court a week after the murders, where the prosecution served him a copy of a Death Penalty Notice that it filed in the Supreme Court ahead of his trial.
That intention of seeking the death penalty for Barnett was subsequently withdrawn.
Last week, the Wilson Run, Trelawny native was charged with several offences relative to allegedly assaulting a female police officer at the Half-Way Tree lockup. He is expected to answer to those charges in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.