Gaskin: There was arguable evidence of manslaughter
Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin last night explained to The Tribune why his office had been willing to accept an admission of manslaughter by Johnson rather than to proceed with the original charge of murder.
“When it was brought to my attention you have to be mindful of a number of factors,” said Mr Gaskin.
‘The defendant has had a charge hanging over him for nearly 15 years, not for any fault on his part.
“His constitutional right has clearly been infringed. The law speaks to a reduction in sentence because of the delay in getting to trial.
“There is never any kind of happy medium in these kinds of things.
“The reality is he was saying there was significant provocation - she treated him badly, infidelity, throwing it in his face. There was a little more to it than a husband who just decided to brutally murder his wife.”
Mr Gaskin added there was an established sentencing guide in murder and manslaughter cases and in his matter the Crown had asked for an 18 year sentence.
“In extreme circumstances where maybe the defendant has previous offences or crimes of violence it can go up to 35 years.”
Given the delay in getting to this week’s hearing which merits a reduction in sentence and bearing in mind Johnson’s version of events, the DPP settled on accepting a manslaughter plea.
“If things had been different we would have clearly have wanted more but taking into account all of the issues we said we would do what we did,” said Mr Gaskin.
“The defence (which has asked for probation) can do whatever they wish. Sentencing is now a matter for the court.”
By LEANDRA ROLLE
THE son of a woman fatally stabbed over a decade ago in front of her children is calling for swift justice over her murder, after the man charged with the killing confessed to the crime.
Tanrio Fowler, 26, the son of murdered victim and former Tribune employee Ericka Fowler, told The Tribune yesterday that the family wants their mother’s murder trial to quickly come to an end so that they can have closure over her death. His father was charged with her killing. “Honestly, it’s been like a nightmare, you know,” Mr Fowler said. “It’s like all the years done past. I ain’t forget about (it), but it’s like no justice was coming out of it. So, I decide whatever happen, happens so just leave it and move on with my life.
“And, then it coming back up, it just waking me back up to the tragic day you know. It’s a delicate situation and it’s not like something happened between strangers. This a family matter. This a domestic matter. This mother and father and kids. People just look at the fact that this a bad person and you know, you need justice but it’s deeper than finding justice it’s a mental thing.”
Fowler, a former librarian and archivist at The Tribune, was 33-years-old when she was fatally stabbed. She died from her injuries in the street in front of her Comet Terrace home in Golden Gates on a Saturday night.
According to then press liaison officer Walter Evans, Fowler and a man got into a heated argument just before 9pm on the date in question in front of her home. Fowler was attacked with a sharp object, which police believed to be a knife.
Four of her five children, as well as her mother reportedly witnessed the crime.
Years after the murder, Mr Fowler said he still has nightmares about the whole ordeal.
“It messed me up mentally. I was 12 (when it took place),” he emotionally told The Tribune.
“Me knowing my father growing up, he was a strict man, a strict individual you know and he always used to talk positive to me and my siblings. It’s hard to understand why he would do such a thing knowing you’re so positive and keen on these things. You know, you could’ve walked away. It’s a different way you could’ve deal with it, you know.”
Leo Roderick Johnson was charged with unlawfully killing Fowler days after her death on August 24, 2006.
He was arraigned before the Supreme Court the following year. However, the case was left dormant until 2014 when a trial date was set for October 24, 2016 before then-Senior Justice Jon Isaacs.
In October 2016, Johnson tried to have the proceedings stayed permanently because of the 10-year delay in bringing the case forward, which he asserted breached his constitutional right to a trial within a reasonable time.
However, Justice Isaacs ultimately ruled that “on a balance of probabilities, a fair trial can be had despite the delay and breach of the applicant’s constitutional right to a trial within a reasonable time.”
Johnson entered a guilty plea to manslaughter when he appeared before Senior Justice Renae McKay on Tuesday.
Johnson’s lawyer reportedly asked the court to consider probation for him instead of a prison sentence.
Giving his thoughts on the requests made, Mr Fowler said he feels “outraged” about Johnson not being willing to deal with the consequences of his crime.
“The family is outraged by it. I’m outraged about it but honestly, I don’t really know how I feel about it. It was a terrible crime. It was my mother and 14 years later, he asking for probation.
“…I just want the whole thing to be over with you know. The thing is I would respect the fact that he accept his fate. The thing is if you accept your fate, that means you accept what you do and you know what you did.
“My mother can’t come back and you still have some objections to what’s going on, that ain’t right.’
Mr Fowler added that his mother’s brutal death has also affected his relationship with his family members.
“Since the tragedy, everybody split up and nobody was in communication with each other no more. It was just a broken home. Sometimes, we’d see each other and just pass each other straight,” he said.
“And there are times, you have children vibing (sic) against each other because some have already accepted the fact with what happen and moving on with life while you have some still wondering when the justice could come.
“It’s just mixed emotions.”
Johnson is expected to return to court for sentencing on February 18.