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Murderer Who Was Spared Death Sentence Admits Guilt

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

CONVICTED murderer Earnest Lockhart, whose death sentence was overturned by the London-based Privy Council in August, admitted recently that he was guilty and remorseful of a shooting death more than a decade ago, according to a probation officer's report.

However, Supreme Court judge Senior Justice Jon Isaacs told the accused before sentencing him to 54 years behind bars at Her Majesty's Prison, that his admission of guilty and remorse nearly six years after trial and conviction weighed "very little" for leniency to not receive a life sentence.

On Friday's resentencing, Meletrina Carey - a probation officer for the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services - testified that the 35-year-old, who was convicted of the June, 1999 murder of 23-year-old Caxton Smith, had admitted to her during her observation of him at the prison that he was guilty of killing Smith, but regretted doing so.

Smith was killed on June 8 from a single bullet to the back. Lockhart killed Smith because the victim refused to sell drugs for him. Both men had been drug dealers.

When reading a summary of her report to the court recalling Lockhart's upbringing in a single parent family, admission to the Boys Industrial School despite being well raised by his father, sporadic employment history, previous convictions and his current residing in the condemned block at HMP for more than five years, she said: "The defendant admitted his guilt of the current offence and expressed remorse for his actions."

She noted that although Lockhart claimed to be reformed, as he had turned to Christianity, "because of his inmate status, he has not had a chance to take advantage of the educational and vocational programmes available at the prison".

Her report concluded that the seriousness of the offence, and "all of the aforementioned should be taken into consideration for sentencing."

Prosecutor Ambrose Armbrister wanted to know from Mrs Carey when the convict had admitted this to her. "I can't recall the date," she replied.

She admitted, however that it was "this year". Mr Armbrister also asked if this had been the first time that the convict had admitted guilt and expressed remorse concerning the murder. "Yes, sir," she said. The officer noted that the only infraction that the convict committed while behind bars was being in possession of a joint in 2008, for which he had also expressed remorse.

As defence attorney Jomo Campbell offered no cross-examine of the witness, Senior Justice Isaacs inquired of the prosecutor whether or not the Crown sought the death penalty for the offence. Before the prosecutor could go into details about recent decisions by the Privy Council, the judge informed him that he was aware of it, hence his reason for asking.

Mr Armbrister then replied: "No, M'lord."

Upon direction from the Senior Justice Isaacs, Mr Campbell told the court that his client, who was 21 years old at the time the offence was committed, "has spent approximately five years and six months not just in prison, but in the hardest places in the prison.

"He's spent his entire time on the condemned block and would've only fallen foul once on an infraction of the prison rules. As established by cross-examination of Mrs Carey, the defendant also expressed remorse for that infraction," he added.

The lawyer said that his client's admission of guilt, "despite the timing" he said, showed that he was on the path to rehabilitation, "which is one of the main purposes of incarceration."

He also reminded the court that his client was denied access to the extracurricular programmes while in the condemned block of the prison. "Nonetheless he is able to progress."

He was convinced that Lockhart was capable of rehabilitation, and if given anything less than a life sentence, would have "support of a family structure" if he is reintroduced into society.

Concluding his submissions, Mr Campbell asked Senior Justice Isaacs "not to impose a sentence, M'lord, of life on this convict".

The judge told the defendant: "The court notes the circumstances behind the incident and the facts reveal that two weeks prior to it, you threatened Caxon Smith with death if he did not work for you."

He further took into consideration that the accused chased the deceased into the street "and shot Caxton Smith as he was running away". "The court notes that you did this purely on base reason of protecting your turf," he said.

Senior Justice Isaacs acknowledged the conditions of the condemned block at HMP saying that "they are Spartan at best" and the single infraction of possessing a "marijuana cigarette, a result of the drug trade that you killed Caxton Smith".

He further noted the Privy Council's observation that he was not "irredeemable" and said the court would balance the time he spent in jail "against the offence you committed". "Earnest Lockhart, you are sentenced to 54 years at Her Majesty's Prison Fox Hill and begins as of the 1st of January, 2012."

He told Lockhart of his hope that Mr Campbell's faith in his being redeemable was not misplaced.

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