THREE men allowed to plead guilty to murder for the first time in local legal history will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Justice Andre Mon Desir told the convicts—Alexander Don Juan Nicholas, 36, Gregory Tan, 35, and Oren Lewis, 31—that they had shown a callous and reckless indifference to human life when they strangled Jerry David Boodoo with his belt and then threw his body in a river.
"The fact is in our society vulnerable taxi-drivers, persons plying the trade are robbed, highjacked and their lives taken," Mon Desir said.
He said the life sentences carried no possibility of parole.
The three pleaded guilty under the murder felony rule which allows for a judge to pass sentence and consider options other than death by hanging.
It came into effect following a 2011 Privy Council judgment.
Justice Mon Desir said yesterday he had reviewed several cases and the death sentence is considered only in the worst of the worst and the rarest of the rare circumstances.
He found that facts surrounding Boodoo's death did not fall under these descriptions.
Mon Desir said Boodoo's killing was not premeditated and there was no torture, prolonged trauma or humiliation to him. He also said that the only weapon used was the dead man's own belt.
At the last hearing, defence attorneys argued that a maximum 20 year sentence would have been sufficient.
The State asked for a 15 to 30-year prison sentence.
However, in the San Fernando High Court , Mon Desir said after the death sentence has been ruled out, the next step before considering a number of years, should be the sentence of life in prison.
He said there were several aggravating factors, including that the act was committed for financial gain, attempts were made by the accused to dispose of Boodoo's body and Boodoo, the father of a child, had pleaded for his life to be able to see his daughter again.
He also considered the time the men spent behind bars, that they were younger when the offence was committed and that Nicholas did not participate in the beating of Boodoo.
"Ultimately the court's sentence comes down to the assessment of the criminal culpability of the accused. After proper and microscopic assessment, culpability of all the accused is quite high," he said.
The men, all of Brazil Village near Arima, pleaded guilty last October after undergoing psychiatric tests.
It was the State's case that August 27, 2002 was the last time Boodoo, 29, of La Horquetta, was seen alive. Four months before the killing, Nicholas and Tan were playing poker, when a man told Nicholas that he wanted car parts for a Nissan Sunny car. Nicholas told him he could get the parts.
At around 10 p.m. on August 27, Nicholas, Tan, Lewis and another person entered Boodoo's blue "PH" B11 Sunny, when he pulled on to the Brazil-Arima taxi stand.
The accused told the driver they were dropping at different locations along the route.
On the way, Tan and Lewis pulled Boodoo into the back seat where they beat him while Nicholas drove the car.
"The deceased begged the men, telling them he had a little daughter to see about and to take the car and go," State attorney Sabrina Dougdeen said.
But Lewis said Boodoo had seen too much and he and Tan continued to beat and cuff Boodoo.
"They took out the deceased's belt and were choking him with it," Dougdeen said.
Boodoo was heard gasping for breath and then "a crack" was heard.
Lewis said: "He dead."
Nicholas said: "Allyuh kill the man...boy, that is lifetime in jail," and he steupsed.
Boodoo was placed in the trunk of the car and the men went to a gas station where they bought soft drinks and sweet bread with the $63 they got from their victim.
They then went to Manzanilla and threw Boodoo's body into the Mitan River.
The vehicle was scrapped and the parts sold. On September 1, 2002, Boodoo's body was found floating in a mangrove in the Mitan River. His body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that the pathologist was unable to determine the cause of death.
The pathologist stated that Boodoo could have possibly died from strangulation, an arm lock, a severe blow to the neck, suffocation or drowning.
Police later arrested the three men.
Tan said they all thought the man was alive when they threw him in the river.
Mon Desir yesterday said even if they were unaware that Boodoo had died, he could have suffocated in the car trunk or drowned in the river. He said that there was a plan to rob and along the way there the intention to kill came.
"After all this, they went about their business, negotiated the sale of the car," the judge said.
He sentenced each to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Their family members cried openly in the courtroom. After the judge left the courtroom, Tan sat and placed his hand on his head.
Boodoo's father, David Boodoo, said he felt satisfied with sentence. His grand-daughter who is now 16 years old, was told of the sentence following the matter.
Three days after the murder, on August 30, 2002, the convicts unlawfully detained Nazim Dean against his will, committed robbery with aggravation after they stole Dean's gold chain, watch, wallet, bank cards and $650 cash and also falsely imprisoned Dean.
Mon Desir passed eigh-year sentences on the men for the first offence and six years on the other charges.
Attorneys Lennox Sanguinette, Larry Williams and Richard Valere along with Marissa Bubb represented the men.
The lawyers plan to appeal the life sentence.