By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal yesterday reserved its decision on the appeal of a former death row inmate who wants a reduction on his life sentence for the murder of a 10-year-old boy.
Murder convict Clayton Cox and his lawyer, Roberto Reckley, appeared before the appellate court for Cox’s substantive hearing to challenge his new sentence of life imprisonment for the bludgeoning death of Scottie Andrews back in 1998. Cox’s lawyer believes the sentence is inappropriate.
Mr Reckley argued that his 49-year-old client should have been re-sentenced to 30-35 years in jail, bearing in mind that he had already served 16 years.
“For the murder of a 10-year-old boy?” Justice Anita Allen asked.
“Yes,” Mr Reckley answered.
“This is the case of the young boy going missing?” Justice Allen further probed.
The lawyer said he did not recall all of the facts of the case.
Mr Reckley relied on the Court of Appeal’s 2013 decision in the appeal of Angelo Poitier and its most recent decision in the matter of Peter Meadows in September of this year.
Poitier was convicted in October 2010 of the May 27, 2009 killing of his 19-year-old girlfriend Sheniece Adderley.
According to Poitier’s confession, which was admitted into evidence, he choked his girlfriend to death after an argument, during which he accused her of playing with his heart, mind and emotions.
He said he released his hold on her neck around 30 minutes later and became fearful when he felt no pulse.
Poitier’s statement said he took her body to the Infant View Road cemetery and buried it with the help of a friend.
Justice Vera Watkins sentenced Poitier to life imprisonment a week after the London-based Privy Council defined which murder cases deserve the death penalty.
However in 2013, the appellate court overturned the sentence after determining that it was uncertain and replaced it with 40 years imprisonment.
In the appeal of Meadows, the convict relied on the court’s ruling in the case of Poitier in which a range of murder cases was outlined in which life imprisonment was not warranted.
Meadows, who has been behind bars for 25 years, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988 for the murder of Deanette Strachan, who was fatally shot during an armed robbery of a convenience store.
The appellate court reduced his life sentence to 35 years after it noted that in determining the appropriate length of sentence in this case, it balanced Meadows’ then youth and good character against the commission of the murder during an armed robbery.
Mr Reckley argued that the violence in these cases was “more aggravating” than that displayed by his client and that the principles the court used to come to its decisions should be applied to Cox as well.
“The child was bludgeoned to death with an object,” Justice Allen noted.
“It was one blow, but that is the term used for such instances,” Mr Reckley replied.
“Crushed his skull...,” Justice Allen said.
“We accept that was an aggravating factor,” the lawyer submitted.
“Has he expressed any remorse anywhere?” Justice Allen asked.
“Mr Cox maintains his innocence, as is his right,” the lawyer said.
Justice Allen said she was aware of his rights, but only wished to ascertain that piece of information.
Justice Neville Adderley added that remorse was a factor for the court when making such decisions.
Crown respondent Ambrose Armbrister disagreed with the submissions of the appellant and said that the circumstances in the referenced case differed from the 1998 killing.
Mr Armbrister said the life sentence in this matter was warranted and even if it were not, “the law makes provisions for persons on life sentences to get a license from the governor general if their application is approved.”
The prosecutor submitted that the life sentence could prohibit similar cases from occurring and is of the view that the punishment is “not unduly severe.”
“I take this position having regard to Mr Cox’s position of ‘I take no responsibility for anything’, which is not a good attitude for reform,” Mr Armbrister said.
“And if we succeeded to the appeal for a determinant sentence...what would you say is a reasonable sentence in the circumstances?” Justice Allen asked.
“I’d say anywhere between 55-60 years given the need to protect society as children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable,” the prosecutor added.
The appellate court said its decision on sentencing will be made at a later date.
Cox was initially sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of Andrews who had returned home from school on October 4, 1994, and went to play with friends before returning home and leaving again.
He did not return and three days later, he was found behind a church on Balliou Hill Road with his pants pulled down and his body partially decomposed.
According to a 12-year-old boy, who was with Andrews when they were returning home, they were intercepted by Cox who took Andrews by the neck while telling the witness to go away.
Another eye-witness testified seeing Cox leaving his house with a piece of plywood. An autopsy revealed that Andrews died as a result of severe blunt force trauma that fractured his skull.
Cox’s execution was stayed by the ruling of the London-based Privy Council in 2006 which found that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional.
In March 2010, then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs re-sentenced Cox to life imprisonment, which is being appealed.