Andel Forde, 45, was yesterday sentenced to 20 years behind bars for the unlawful killing of sex worker Noel Luthers, called “Neefi,” whom he admitted to gunning down almost two years ago.
Although Forde was charged with murdering Luthers, he pleaded not guilty and instead admitted guilt to the lesser count of manslaughter. In doing so, he accepted that on July 22, 2015, at Carmichael Street, Georgetown, he unlawfully killed Luthers.
The state’s case against Forde, which he did not challenge, was that he shot Luthers in the chest during an argument on the day in question. Prosecutor Tuanna Hardy told the court that about 1.30 that morning, Forde approached the deceased and, during an argument, whipped out a gun and shot him in the chest. She said the shooting was witnessed by a number of persons. Hardy said Luthers succumbed to his injuries by the time he arrived at the hospital.
The sentence was handed down at the High Court in Georgetown, following the ceremonial opening of the June session of the Demerara criminal assizes yesterday morning.
In a passionate plea for mercy on behalf of his client, attorney Mark Conway told Justice Navindra Singh that Forde, a father of six, was remorseful for his actions, which he said followed an argument he had in relation to a friend of his who was robbed.
Since his incarceration, Conway said, Forde has displayed impeccable behaviour.
According to counsel, Forde was instrumental in assisting other prisoners who were injured during last year’s fatal prison uprising, during which some inmates set a section of the prison on fire. The fire claimed the lives of 17 inmates.
Conway, who said the convict himself sustained severe burns about his body, argued that the man’s acts of selflessness indicated his intention of being an upright individual.
Conway also begged the judge to consider that his client would have admitted guilt at the first available opportunity, thus saving the court considerable time in otherwise having to conduct a trial.
In an equally passionate rebuttal, Hardy asked the court to impose a sentence commensurate with Forde’s actions.
She asked Justice Singh to note that the convict went to the scene armed with a gun to confront an unarmed Luthers. She added, too, that Forde’s actions that night placed the public in danger, as there were other people around at the time of the shooting. “Not because you have an argument with someone, you have the right to shoot that person,” Hardy emphasised.
Given a chance to speak, Forde told the court that he was sorry for what he had done, and also extended apologies to Luthers’ family. “I know I took a life that cannot be replaced,” he declared, before begging the judge “for some sympathy.”
Justice Singh described the incident in which Forde had gotten himself involved, as a “stupid” one.
After considering both the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, the judge sentenced the convict to 20 years in prison and ordered that the prison authorities make deductions for time spent on remand.
The judge stressed that the mitigating factors raised by the defence needed to be balanced with the fact that a life was lost and that a gun was used, which he said “seems to be a problem in our country at this time.”
The judge said he believed Forde’s expression of remorse to be genuine and added that his acceptance of culpability demonstrated that he was “well on his way to rehabilitation.
He admonished the convict to use his time in prison to avail himself of rehabilitation programmes and he suggested that he attend anger management classes. The judge expressed the hope that Forde would be able to make meaningful contributions to society upon his release from prison.
The state’s case was presented by Hardy, in association with prosecutors Tamieka Clarke and Seeta Bishundial.
Police had said that on the morning of the killing, Luthers was confronted by two men at Quamina and Carmichael streets and one of them shot him to the chest and escaped.
He was later pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Businessman Kanand Ojha, who was also identified as a suspect in the crime, was never apprehended. The police had issued a wanted bulletin for him.