By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN spared the death sentence by the Court of Appeal for the contract killing of a friend was re-sentenced to 35 years imprisonment on Friday.
Convicted murderer Anthony Clarke Sr appeared before Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs in Supreme Court facing up to 60 years in jail in light of the appellate court's decision to overturn the death penalty imposed on him for the September 16, 2011 paid execution of Aleus Tilus.
Moments before Senior Justice Isaacs re-sentenced Clarke for the crime, the 49-year-old told the judge that he was innocent despite being convicted.
"I was charged with something I didn't do" claimed Clarke, adding that he was "beaten to lie on myself".
"I never knew that man. I'm falsely accused. I never did that," he told the judge.
During Clarke’s trial, the prosecution produced a confession statement in which the accused purportedly owned up to the murder.
He allegedly told police that he was paid “a lot of money” by a “white man”, who was not named or prosecuted, to kill Tilus because of an ongoing dispute before the Labour Board concerning Tilus’ employer.
The convict’s then-attorney, Shaka Serville, submitted that the statement was obtained through force and brutality against his client.
The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict and the prosecutor, Ambrose Armbrister, indicated the Crown’s intent to seek the death penalty.
On October 10, 2013, then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, having taken into account submissions from the prosecution, defence attorneys, probation and psychiatric reports, agreed to the Crown’s request to sentence Clarke to death.
At the November 26, 2014 substantive hearing in the appellate court, Clarke’s then-lawyer Romona Farquharson-Seymour was unable to convince the court the trial judge was wrong – in law – to allow four alleged confessions to be admitted into evidence before a jury.
However, the justices did agree with Mrs Farquharson-Seymour that the circumstances of the murder alone did not warrant the death penalty, notwithstanding veteran prosecutor Franklyn Williams’ submission that Clarke had shown no remorse upon his conviction or when interviewed by a psychiatrist of the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services.
Prosecutor Algernon Allen, in the re-sentencing hearing, had asked the court to send a strong message to society that such cold and violent acts would not be tolerated and argued for no less than 35 years imprisonment with credit for time on remand given Clarke's age.
"Bearing in mind the cases of Maxo Tido, Angelo Poitier and Larry Jones," the judge said, "there are three principles at work. The first, this case is not the worst of the worst. The second, a sentence of natural life raises constitutional issues. And the third, the tariff of 30 years to 60 years imprisonment in a case of contract killing is appropriate.
"The convicted man maintains his innocence and has stated that he was forced to confess and did not know the difference. The trial court has no authority to go behind a jury's verdict. The conclusion of the jury was that Mr Clarke was guilty of a contract killing. In light of his position, Mr Clarke is rightly described as a danger to society.
"However, the crown has sought a sentence of 35 years, the lower end of the Court of Appeal's recommended tariff of 30 to 60 years. I do not think the trial judge should impose a sentence that is harsher or greater than what the Crown itself has sought. In the circumstances, a sentence of 35 years is imposed with credit for three and a half years he spent in custody."
The 31 years and six months will run from the day of sentencing.