Hofosawa Awena Rutherford, who was on trial for killing her two children, was found guilty of the crimes by a jury yesterday afternoon.
Rutherford broke into tears and collapsed moments after the jury foreman announced the verdicts on two counts of manslaughter over the killing of four-year-old Hodaciea Cadogan and one-year-old brother Jabari Cadogan Jr.
On March 27th, 2014, Rutherford administered carbon tablets—a pesticide popularly known for killing rats—to her children, who subsequently died. She has since claimed she thought that she had given them cold medication.
Her fainting led to Justice Navindra Singh deferring sentencing to 1 pm today.
The judge granted defence attorney Adrian Thompson’s request for his client to seek medical attention.
Counsel said that while he was prepared to present a plea in mitigation on his client’s behalf, he preferred to do so when she is composed and in a position to even herself address the court.
Rutherford’s collapse caused a disruption in the proceedings and saw the policewomen who were standing guard rushing into the prisoner’s dock in a frantic effort to revive her. Her relatives, who were present in the courtroom, quickly produced a bottle of Limacol and a bottle of water, as the policewomen took turns fanning her in their efforts to revive her. It was during this time that an ambulance was summoned to the courthouse.
After what seemed like much work by the policewomen, who eventually managed to prop her into an upright sitting position, the woman slid off the bench and unto the floor of the docks. It was at this point that the officers aborted any further attempt at propping her up, allowing her instead to lay on the ground as they continued what became a resuscitation exercise of fanning, providing water and applying Limacol with the aid of a relative.
Rutherford then began breathing heavily, moments before suddenly kicking and belting out thunderous screams as she lay on the ground.
Her wails attracted many curious staffers, who converged in the already packed courtroom.
After quite some time, the visibly distressed convict emerged from the courtroom surrounded by the officers, who assisted the limping woman to the court’s police outpost, where she awaited the arrival of the ambulance.
Addressing the court in unsworn testimony after being called upon to lead her defence on Wednesday, Rutherford had stated that she never gave her children carbon tablets, but rather administered to them what she believed to be “cold tablets.” “I did not buy rat poison for my children,” she declared.
It was the state’s case that the young woman deliberately administered rat poison to her children. Prosecutor Tiffini Lyken had asked the jury to consider the pungent odor which carbon tablets carry and the unlikeliness of those being confused with any sort of cold tablets.
She had asked the jury to rubbish Rutherford’s claims of ever purchasing cold tablets for the children as no evidence supported the assertion that they were even suffering from a cold at the time.
According to a caution statement police said Rutherford gave, she claimed she purchased cold tablets from a man who also sold rat poison and “other stuff” on the road at the Plaisance Market.
Lyken asked the jury to question the plausibility of Rutherford’s story that she would buy cold tablets for her small children “from a man on the road,” who would be selling poison, also in the form of tablets.
Referencing the caution statement in which Rutherford told police about having problems and being frustrated while awaiting word on her application for a job as a traffic warden with the Guyana Police Force, the prosecutor stressed that it was because of this frustration that Rutherford killed her children.
Detective Police Corporal Dellon Fraser had said that the woman told him of purchasing three tablets, two of which she drank, while the other, she divided in half for each of the children.
The court had been told that Rutherford was herself hospitalised for some time after ingesting the tablets.
Fraser had said that the woman did not specify what type of tablets she had bought.
Lyken, in her closing address, had drawn the jury’s attention to the inescapably distinct scent which carbon tablets carry, arguing that Rutherford’s story could not be believed as the odour would likely have raised suspicion at that point. The prosecutor surmised, however, that there was no need for the convict to be suspicious since she knew exactly what she was doing.
Lyken also asked the jury to consider the testimony of Pathologist Dr. Nehaul Singh, who said both children died from pesticide poisoning and the fact that the scent of carbon tablets was so strong that the odor was still present when he performed the autopsies four days later.
For his part, Thompson, however, stressed that his client at no time intentionally poisoned her children, maintaining that she had bought cold tablets for them.
The state’s case was presented by Lyken, in association with prosecutors Shawnette Austin and Abigail Gibbs.