By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE relative of a murdered off-duty police officer yesterday declared his family’s trust in the court to “do the right thing” concerning sentencing of the men a jury ruled to be responsible for the killing.
Quinton Rolle, brother of deceased Sergeant Wayne Rolle, appeared before Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder during the sentencing hearing of 26-year-old Dion Bethel and 30-year-old Kevin McKenzie to speak to the impact the police officer’s death has had on surviving relatives.
Mr Rolle said his brother’s death has devastated the family who wants justice for what happened to their loved one. They also trust the court “to do the right thing.”
Sgt Rolle was in a vehicle with a female friend on Durham Street off Montrose Avenue when he was shot in the head by two armed men on December 4, 2014.
Police were able to recover a stolen smartphone from 19-year-old Kendira Farrington, who testified in court that she had purchased the item for $150 from McKenzie two days after the incident.
The cellular phone’s identification number, found on the battery of most mobile phones, matched that of the one purchased by the deceased member of the police’s Mobile Unit.
Crown prosecutors produced a videotaped interview of McKenzie in police custody acknowledging that he sold the cell phone to Farrington, but at a much later date than alleged by police.
Police also produced an alleged confession in which Bethel owned up to his involvement in the robbery and subsequent killing.
Both Bethel and McKenzie alleged that the confessions were obtained as a result of severe beatings while in custody and were not given voluntarily. Both denied any involvement in Sgt Rolle’s murder and armed robbery.
During yesterday’s penalty phase of the trial for the two brothers, senior probation officer Janice McKenzie spoke to the social inquiry report she prepared for the court concerning the 30 year old.
The probation officer said that McKenzie had little memory of his father, the main one being “harrowing when he was seven years old as his father was fatally shot in his presence.”
McKenzie had to receive counselling as a result. He was an altar boy and member of the Boys Brigade for a time during his childhood, but experienced behavioral problems that resulted in him being enrolled in the YEAST programme.
Notwithstanding this, the probation officer said, McKenzie had no prior convictions.
“McKenzie expressed that he’s innocent but is sorry for the loss of life,” the court heard.
Kevin Harris-Smith, chief probation officer, produced his report concerning Bethel where it was highlighted that the convict is known to be a mannerly, respectful and quiet individual who, despite not achieving academic success in school, maintained steady employment up until his arrest and remand concerning the incident in question.
The report noted that Bethel’s mother, Sandra Smith, is “disappointed in the way the trial proceeded as there was no evidence linking him, but he was convicted.”
Mr Harris-Smith further noted that Bethel has not presented any challenges to prison authorities.
Dr John Dillard, a licensed psychiatrist with the Public Hospitals Authority, testified yesterday that although the pair had used marijuana prior to their incarceration, he found no evidence or record of mental illness.
Both men, he said, were cooperative and able to communicate effectively with him during their clinical interviews that aided the preparation of psychiatric reports for the court’s consideration.
McKenzie’s lawyer, Monique Gomez, told Justice Winder that the probation report should be given consideration by the court when determining a sentence.
“What do you say is the appropriate sentence bearing in mind the Crown’s application for the imposition of the discretionary death penalty?” the judge asked.
“That is totally unnecessary in the circumstances of this case,” the defence lawyer said.
The judge then asked if she was suggesting a sentence within the 30-60 year range set would be appropriate.
Ms Gomez said yes, adding that McKenzie should receive a sentence towards the lower end of the scale.
“Why not the middle to upper end given that the offence was committed in the course of an armed robbery?” the judge asked.
Ms Gomez said the court still had to factor in her client’s relative youth and lack of antecedents as well.
Donna Major, Bethel’s lawyer, argued that the death penalty should not apply given the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s decision of Maxo Tido.
She noted that there was no mention in the psychiatric report concerning prospects for reform “and that is one of the main reasons for a psychiatric report.”
She said notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, the probation report speaks favourably of her client and based on the evidence, Bethel’s role was minimal.
However, the prosecution maintained yesterday that the death penalty was appropriate in this case but said a prison term between 45 to 60 years could also be considered.
Justice Winder has deferred his decision on punishment to March 23 at 2pm.