Tuesday, 25 October 2022 14:34

Jamaica should have popped Rushane Barnett’s neck – the death penalty is still in force, use it.

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By Andrew Clunis

Jamaica has squandered a perfect opportunity to send a very strong signal to the hordes of marauding killers in the country, in the failure to sentence and execute Clarendon massacre butcher, Rushane Barnett.

Shockwaves surged through the quiet community of Cocoa Piece in Manchester on June 21 this year when a relative stumbled upon the mutilated bodies of Kimesha Wright and her four children, first and second cousins to Barnett. Just over a month later, while in police custody, he pleaded guilty to the crime under the foolish expectation that he might have served just a year in prison.

The Director Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn said she would have sought the death penalty for the 23-year-old murderer but backpedaled on her commitment in the face of pressure from civil society and human rights advocates.  In subsequently sold out the majority of Jamaicans by accepting a guilty plea in exchange for removing the death penalty from the equation.

She dropped the ball and consequentially set back Jamaica’s crime fighting efforts and judicial system by decades. She tied the judge’s hands and, in that decision, rendered it highly unlikely that Jamaica will ever be able to apply the death penalty to savages like Rushane Barnett any time soon.

The judge’s ruling has created legal precedence which guarantees the hundreds of vicious killers inflicting hurt and pain on the society that an early guilty plea will see their own lives being spared.

Taken in the context of the rampant criminality and uncontrollable murder rate that now define Jamaican society, one can conclude without fear of contribution that Ms Llewelyn erred egregiously.

I have a lot of respect for Ms Llewellyn. She has done more for her office than most of her predecessors. But in this case, she simply wilted  in the face of pressure and got it wrong.

She didn’t need to countenance a guilty plea. The case was open and closed. The evidence presented itself like a comet and even the sloppiest investigator could not get it wrong. It was ‘bat up and ketch’ police work. The motive was clear, the physical evidence was easily found and identified – there was nothing circumstantial, save and except he was not caught in the act.

The death penalty is usually reserved for cases deemed the ‘worst of the worst’ and if the premeditated slaughter of a young mother and her four children, including a baby, didn’t qualify, what would. Will we have to wait until one of these bastards slaughters 10 people before we firmly place the death penalty on the table and leave it there?

The only negotiation Ms Llewelyn should have been in with Barnett’s lawyers was whether he would have been put to death my hanging, the electric chair or the more humane chemical process. I suspect that given a say, the majority of Jamaicans would have suggested a firing squad or stoning by the public in Mandeville town square.

From the tone of the judge in summation after sentencing, it seems he would have gone with the majority of Jamaicans, had he been given the option. It is not often in Jamaica that a judge delivers a ruling with such apparently high levels of emotion and sorrow. He said he wants Barnett’s name relegated to the dustbin of history.

The crime was simply sickening. For most human beings, at the point of inflicting the first wounds on the mother, something would have risen in their humanity to question whether what they were doing was right. But this brute was devoid of emotion, empathy, sympathy, conscience, morality and all the other virtues of a decent human being, that he proceeded to repeatedly stab and  cut the throats of the innocent children.

Rushane Barnett should have been put down like the rabid, mangy dog that he is, long beyond the point of redemption.

If the principal function of the penal system is to rehabilitate offenders, Rushane Barnett does not deserve prison. He might have been given five concurrent life sentences with nearly 62 years to be served without parole, but such a psychopath is well beyond the redeemable threshold. He is 23 years old and might be leaving prison at age 84. Of what good will he be to society at that age, given his history.

After a few years behind bars prison will seem like home to him. He will adjust to his circumstances. He would have made friends with fellow miscreants, perhaps found a boyfriend, benefitted from free healthcare, three meals a day, periodic visits by family members and lots of time to either gloat quietly to himself, or reflect helplessly on his terrible deeds.

Kimesha Wright and her four children have no such opportunities. For them, it is final. Their relatives are grieving and it will take their entire lifetimes searching for closure.

The plea-bargaining system is making a mockery of our justice system. As it stands, a person who has nothing to lose can commit murder, confess to the crime and go reside in prison for a decade or two on the promise of early parole.

Given that on average the age of our most violent killers is between 20 and 25, it doesn’t seem like such a bad option for many.

A sentence of life imprisonment does not serve as a deterrent to Jamaican gangsters. They use the examples of people like Vybz Kartel and Ninjaman, and see that they can continue to operate on the outside from behind bars, due to systemic corruption in the system.

If we really want to drive the fear of God into these monsters who roam our streets, we should dust off the death penalty and put it back into use in the fight against crime.

If the political will is lacking and there is fear of admonishment from civil society and human rights groups, put the matter before the Jamaican people on a ballot, and let us abide by public decision.

The government is planning to build a new prison. This should be expedited and reserved for murder convicts and it should include an execution chamber and a crematorium situated in plain view of death row. They could even name it to Rushane Barnett Chamber after that merchant of death. The only problem there is that it may send the wrong signal of martyrdom and immortalize him.

As for the people of the quiet and otherwise peaceful district of Cocoa Piece, there is a long way to go in the healing process. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents, particularly the children who will have to grow up with the knowledge that such a heinous crime took place in their community.

I suppose ultimate justice for them would be for some grave misfortune to meet Rushane Barnett behind the prison walls. He should be placed among the general population and not be given protective custody. Afterall, there is still a line that some killers will not cross, especially when it comes to raping and killing babies.

Enjoy your extended holiday Rushane Barnett, although you might find sleep and rest hard to come by, as you will always have  to keep one eye open.

Good Riddance!

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