By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE COURT of Appeal ordered a retrial yesterday in the case of a former prison officer previously convicted and sentenced to 40 years in jail for murder.
Justices Stanley John, Abdulai Conteh and Neville Adderley made the ruling in the appellate court proceedings where it set aside Jerome Bethel’s conviction and sentence before ordering a retrial “in the interest of justice.”
Justice John, who read the summary of the ruling, noted that their decision was based on the decision of the trial judge stepping in as the prosecutor of the matter.
“While judges are all allowed to ask questions, in this case, it went beyond that,” Justice John added.
In Bethel’s previous appellate court appearance on April 1, his lawyer, Murrio Ducille, argued that the jury in Bethel’s case had not been sufficiently instructed by the court on issues of provocation and self-defence raised from the evidence in the trial.
However, prosecutors Darnell Dorsett and Aaron Johnson countered that the jury had been sufficiently instructed and as judges of the fact, had concluded that the former FML Group of Companies security guard had committed murder.
In December 2012, the 42-year-old Greenway Drive resident was convicted of the February 11, 2009, murder of Harold Gardiner.
The stabbing incident occurred that evening at the home of Bethel’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he had two children.
According to evidence, the stabbing occurred when the two men got into a scuffle that started when Gardiner came out of the house to confront Bethel, and Bethel following an initial scuffle, returned to the home.
No witnesses in the trial saw when the stabbing occurred but the girlfriend testified that Bethel attacked her boyfriend, Gardiner.
In Bethel’s sentencing two months later, Senior Justice Jon Isaacs noted that while Bethel had a favourable probation report that outlined a number of mitigating factors, the nature of the crime and the circumstance of the case, according to the evidence, where Harold Gardiner was stabbed 17 times, was serious.
In the end, while noting that Bethel’s case could not be considered “the worst of the worst” based on the standards set by the London-based Privy Council in Maxo Tido vs the Queen, he said that the crime and circumstances warranted a term of 40 years imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Prison.
The judge said that his punishment for the repeated stabbing of a man would reflect society’s disapproval of such violent actions.
Bethel had appealed, maintaining his innocence that his actions were in self-defence.