By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
DOUBLE murder convict George Williams will serve a life sentence for the fatal shootings of two men in Freeport, Grand Bahama, a Supreme Court judge ruled yesterday.
Justice Roy Jones rejected the Crown’s request for the death penalty, ruling that, based on the circumstances of the case, the deaths of Andy Weekes and Terrel Mingo could not be categorised as the most extreme and exceptional, or the “worst of the worst” based on the guidelines set out by the London-based Privy Council.
Williams, 33, remained unmoved by the ruling. His lawyer, Jiaram Mangra, told the court that Williams intended to appeal his conviction and sentence for the April 23, 2008 murders behind a house on Adventurer’s Way in Freeport.
In December 2013, after two weeks of evidence, the jury returned with guilty 12-0 verdicts on both counts of murder.
In June, prosecutor Neil Braithwaite submitted to the court that the death penalty was a fitting punishment because Weekes had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time when Williams and Mingo were in a dispute over proceeds from crime.
Mr Braithwaite said murdering a witness counted in the category of “worst of the worst” set out by Parliament’s amendment to the death penalty laws in 2011. While highlighting that Williams had shown no remorse for the crimes, the prosecutor also noted that, according to the probation report, he had a number of infractions while on remand in prison.
The prosecutor said that, given this information and the fact that he has a previous conviction for manslaughter, his prospects for reform were slim to none.
In response, Mr Mangra argued that a determinant sentence was appropriate. While acknowledging that the law now allows for the court to consider the death penalty in certain circumstances of murder, he submitted that only applied to witnesses in pending cases.
He also noted that while his client was not unblemished, the psychiatric evaluation did not rule out any prospects for Williams’ reform.
Justice Jones, in delivering his ruling yesterday, said the level of violence in the deaths of the two could not compare to that of the circumstances in the cases of Earnest Lockhart and Maxo Tido, which also saw the country’s highest court overturn the death penalty in those matters.
The judge explained that there was nothing to suggest that the killings in this case were premeditated or that both men had been tortured up to the moments of their death.
Justice Jones noted there was also no clear conclusion provided by the psychiatrist on Williams’ prospect for reform
He also agreed with Mr Mangra’s submission that not only did the previous conviction for manslaughter have no relevance to the current offence but that Weekes could not be counted as a witness because he had not given testimony before the courts to be acknowledged as such.