A MAN who was sentenced to death in 2008, after being found guilty of murdering a taxi driver five years earlier, had his sentence reduced to just below 26 years in prison yesterday.
The re-sentence was handed down by Justice Althea Alexis-Windsor in the Sixth Criminal Court of the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain after the Privy Council held that the mandatory death penalty for murder based on the felony murder principle was unconstitutional, cruel and contrary to the Constitution.
In January 2008, Nimrod Miguel was convicted by a 12-member jury of murdering Ramesh Lalchan on December 30 or 31, 2003.
According to the State’s case, Lalchan’s lifeless body was found on the morning of December 31, 2003, in Fairfield, Princes Town. He had left in his vehicle from Tableland to San Fernando the day before.
On January 2, 2004, Lalchan’s vehicle was found by police in Princes Town. The following day officers lifted fingerprint impressions from the vehicle that matched Miguel’s. Later that month Miguel was arrested at an abandoned house in Princes Town.
He allegedly admitted in a statement to police that he together with three other people intended to rob Lalchan of his vehicle. Nimrod allegedly told officers he tied Lalchan’s mouth but that it was one of the other men who shot the taxi driver.
During the trial, Nimrod said he had only signed certain parts of the statements after being told by police he would have been allowed to go home if he placed his signature on the statement.
In his written submissions prior to re-sentencing, defence attorney Daniel Khan said the ruling of the Privy Council meant the death penalty for cases for felony murder is no longer mandatory but discretionary.
Khan had submitted that the lower scale of the tariff should be set at the maximum for the offence of larceny (ten years) which is the arrestable violent offence that had triggered the felony murder. The maximum sentence should be 20 years Khan said, and discounts should then taken in consideration of mitigating factors.
Attorney Brent Winter who along with Ravita Persad represented the State submitted that Khan’s criticisms of the felony murder rule should be disregarded by the court and that the proposed sentencing regime should strike a balance between the culpability of the prisoner, as well as the legislative policy inherent in Section 2A of the Criminal Law Act to attach severe penalties to people engaged in serious crimes of violence, if death, even unintentional resulted.
After considering submissions from both sides, Justice Alexis-Windsor sentenced Miguel to 25 years and 11 months imprisonment to begin from his date of conviction in 2008. He will therefore serve 19 years and six months starting from yesterday.
The felony murder principle states if a killing occurs during the commission of an arrestable offence involving violence, all those who participated in the arrestable offence are guilty of unlawful homicide, either murder or manslaughter depending on the facts surrounding the participation of the particular accused.