The Guyana Court of Appeal yesterday set aside the murder conviction and death sentence imposed on Lennox Syfox for the 2005 killing of the mother of his child.
The Appellate Court replaced the conviction for murder with a conviction for manslaughter and substituted the death sentence with 30 years imprisonment.
Syfox’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Bernard De Santos expressed dissatisfaction with the sentence. “I think the sentence is a little severe in the circumstances”, he told the court shortly after Chancellor (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards had read the court’s ruling. Cummings-Edwards along with appellate judges Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory heard the case.
In September, 2010 Syfox was found guilty of murdering Roselyne Rodney on August 19, 2005. Syfox, 29, stabbed the woman to death in her Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara home that night. The woman was holding their baby at the time and Syfox had also stabbed the child in the head. The child survived.
De Santos after the ruling, pointed out to the Appellate Court that this was not “a true case of domestic violence”. He said that it was a very “special” case while pointing out that if he was on good terms with his girlfriend and was supporting his child, the woman’s mother ought not to have any animosity towards him.
Justice Cummings-Edwards in response, disagreed that 30 years is severe and reasoned that the court had to take into account the nature of the injuries the woman sustained. She pointed out that the time Syfox has served thus far will be deducted from the 30 years.
In reading the prepared ruling, the Chancellor (ag) stressed that the court did not find that the trial judge attempted to misdirect the jury but rather did try to put the positions of the prosecution and defence in a fair manner.
She however expressed dissatisfaction with the direction given to the jury with regards to Pauline Rodney, the mother of the deceased, who was a key witness. Her evidence had differed from that provide by the pathologist.
According to Justice Cummings-Edwards, the court felt that the trial judge could have advised the jury how to look at the evidence presented by that witness. “The direction of the jury should have been more straightforward”, she said before pointing out that the evidence presented by the star witness could have been tainted given its variance from that of the doctor. “Her evidence did not match that of the medical evidence”, she stressed.
She said that while the court felt that the trial judge dealt with aspects of the case in a fair and adequate matter, enough attention was not given to the issue of provocation. “The trial judge ought to have gone further”, she stressed.
In the circumstances, she said the court will allow the appeal and will set aside the death sentence. She added that a 30-year sentence will be imposed and the time already spent will be deducted. She said that the injuries to the woman were serious and that the court could not turn a “blind eye” to domestic violence.
Around 8.45 pm on August 19, 2005, Syfox attacked his reputed wife in the Golden Grove house. Several days before the incident, Pauline Rodney said, her daughter and the man had an argument which escalated with time. Syfox, according to the woman, had accused her daughter of being unfaithful.
When Syfox attacked her daughter, Pauline Rodney had said, she tried to fight the man off and suffered cuts and bruises in the process. However, despite her struggles Syfox managed to first stab her grandchild to the head and then Roselyne to the neck.
After the attack he ran from the house. On August 22, 2005 police issued a wanted bulletin for Syfox. He was subsequently caught on Camp Street with an unlicensed gun in his possession. Syfox, formerly of Lot 61 Foulis, East Coast Demerara, was also wanted by police in relation to a shooting. Later, he was also charged with escaping from a police prison van along with two other prisoners.
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Dionne McCammon represented the state in the appeal.