The Court of Appeal on Friday reduced a 30-year manslaughter sentence dealt to Noel Adonis, to 18 years, after finding that the judge who heard his trial did not discount the almost six years he had spent on remand awaiting trial, as required by law.
The new 18-year sentence is to take effect retroactively from June of 2013, when the sentence was imposed.
The now 45-year-old Adonis had been convicted by a jury for the unlawful killing of his sister-in-law, Ishroutie Deonarine, called “Suzie,” in the Queen’s College compound on September 14, 2007.
Adonis’ trial before the High Court had been heard by Justice Navindra Singh.
Through his attorney Mark Conway, the convict had appealed his sentence, arguing that it was too harsh, and charging that the trial judge failed to consider mitigating factors which could have led to reductions from the 30-year base.
Allowing the appeal and agreeing with Conway, the appellate court said that apart from remission, which the convict ought to have been granted, the fact that he was provoked by the deceased amounted to a mitigating factor, contrary to the trial judge’s finding that none existed.
During his submissions Friday morning, Conway told Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory, that the trial judge had said that there were no factors to mitigate the sentence.
Citing case law authorities, however, Conway submitted that in accordance with the law, the five years, nine months which his client would have spent on remand prior to trial, ought to have been deducted.
He argued too, that though there was a clear finding of provocation, which in itself is a mitigating factor, the judge still declared that no mitigating circumstances existed to warrant deductions.
Conway also advanced that his client’s exemplary behaviour, which was substantiated by prison reports, could also have been taken into account by the judge.
In all the circumstances proffered, the lawyer asked the court to consider granting his client’s appeal.
Meanwhile, in her address to the court, state counsel Diana Kaulesar-O’Brien, conceded that according to law, the appellant should have been granted reductions for time served on remand.
She said too, that indeed, provocation is a mitigating factor, but went on to add that absent from the record was any remorse expressed by the convict when the sentence was imposed against him.
Chancellor Cummings-Edwards, however, said that the court would not assume that the convict did not express remorse, simply because no such record had been annotated by the trial judge.
“It could be that he did [express remorse] … and the judge just didn’t record it,” the chancellor pointed out.
The prosecutor next went on to address what she said was the violent manner in which the crime was committed and its prevalence, stating that while deductions should be made for remission, the offence warranted a sentence which would reflect its violence and prevalence.
It had been the state’s contention that the sentence was not unduly severe, contending that a life had been lost.
She also asked the court to consider that the appellant had gone through a full trial at the end of which he was unanimously found guilty by a jury of his peers on the lesser count of manslaughter.
To this end, she argued that it was not a case where, from the outset, Adonis had thrown himself at the mercy of the court in acceptance of responsibility for his actions, which she advanced could have saved the court considerable time in otherwise having to conduct a trial.
After hearing the arguments from both sides, the chancellor informed the appellant that his appeal was allowed and granted him full credit for time not previously deducted for remission.
The court said it notes too that from the facts of the case, the crime was not premeditated and that provocation was indeed a mitigating factor which should also have been considered by the trial judge.
Granting full credit for remission, Chancellor Cummings-Edwards announced that the 30-year sentence would be varied to 18 years instead, and is to commence retroactively from the date of conviction—June 14, 2013.
The deceased, Deonarine, died as a result of cerebral hemorrhage and a fractured skull. She had been admitted to hospital on September 9, 2007 but succumbed five days later.
Adonis, a father of two, had been initially indicted for murder but was found guilty for manslaughter.
The prosecution’s facts were that Adonis had gone to visit his wife when his “sister-in-law, who was sporting, got involved and provoked him.” The man immediately lashed out at the woman, hitting her in the head with a wood.
The woman’s mother, Liloutie Deonarine, had testify to witnessing Adonis hitting her daughter to the head.