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Delay Over Drug Dealers' Appeal Against Sentence

By LAMECH JOHNSON Tribune Staff Reporter ljohnson@tribunemedia.net THE COURT of Appeal deferred its decision in the cases of two men appealing against their sentences after being convicted of possessing drugs with intent to supply. Following arguments from Jomo Campbell and Murrio Ducille, attorneys for Anthony Armbrister and Andrew Davis respectively, appellate court president Justice Anita Allen said the decisions would be announced at a later date as they are "matters of public interest". Justices Allen, Christopher Blackman and Abdulai Conteh were told the four-year sentences meted out to the men were "excessive and harsh". Armbrister, a penile cancer patient, was one of the first persons to receive the new, longer minimum sentence after the law was amended on November 4, 2011. He pleaded guilty a week later to having 51 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of $2,000. He told Magistrate Carolita Bethell that the drugs were to be sold to pay his medical bills. The magistrate said her hands were tied on the question of sentencing, because of the new law. In December, Davis pleaded guilty to possessing six ounces of marijuana valued at $300. He claimed he was going to smoke it with friends. Yesterday, both attorneys argued that the sentences were disproportionate considering the amount of drugs involved. Mr Ducille argued that the new law did not entirely remove a magistrate's discretion regarding the minimum sentence for the offence. He also said that despite his client having two previous convictions, he should not be in prison and that a fine was more appropriate in the circumstances. Meanwhile, Mr Campbell contended that his client was a man of good character, having only one previous conviction for simple drug possession in 2001. Deputy director of public prosecutions Franklyn Williams responded, saying that despite the circumstances, the men pleaded guilty to a grave offence.

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