When High Court Justice Iain Morley jailed Aundrey Joseph for 10 years this week, he explained the rationale for doing so despite the killer pleading guilty to manslaughter and testifying against his co-accused, Meryl Chiddick, which helped the prosecution to secure the latter’s conviction for murder.
However, media entities which reported the sentence earlier this week did not provide the public with a full picture of what guided the judge’s decision, prompting speculation and questions from residents on social media, mainly about why the sentence was, as they described it, so “harsh.”
The reactions of two social media commenters stood out, as they suggested the penalty against Joseph would discourage individuals from wanting to admit their crime and helping the prosecution in the future.
Former Commissioner of Police, Rawlston Pompey was one of the commenters on Facebook, who asked: “Why kill a witness who helped in bringing about the conviction of a merciless and coldblooded killer?” He also took note of Joseph’s youthfulness at the time of the offence (19 years) and the fact that he ran the risk of being killed if he had exposed Chiddick when he learned he had plans to rob cannabis farms and was armed with a weapon.
Another commenter suggested the prosecution should have bargained for a lesser sentence for Joseph because his evidence was critical to the conviction of Chiddick who was the mastermind of the attack on Conroy Andrew’s farm in Patterson, near Liberta, at approximately 3:15 pm on November 10, 2014.
OBSERVER media investigated the ruling and, having obtained a copy of the judge’s seven-page decision, learned that Joseph lied to the prosecution to minimise his role in the killing of Andrew when he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter.
The judge took note of this, saying, “Concerning his giving Queen’s evidence against Chiddick, Joseph was notably consistent as to what Chiddick did. However, to his discredit, he minimised his own role, by saying through much of his testimony he had only ever thought he was going to do some work, probably of a construction nature. This had been at the root of his plea to manslaughter on 23.02.18, and was partly why the prosecution accepted it, in combination with his limited intelligence.”
However, the judge added, that it was only when Joseph was questioned by the jury, and the judge himself, that Joseph admitted to knowing what was going to happen because he saw Chiddick loading the gun and that Chiddick had taken him along to help steal cannabis.
The judge concluded that Joseph’s lie about thinking he was going to look about a construction job “was an important minimisation, because it pointed away from his possible culpability for murder under the doctrine of joint criminal enterprise”.
Justice Morley added that although Joseph pleaded guilty at the first opportunity in 2018, for the 2014 murder, “it was strongly disappointing Joseph minimised for so long his knowledge…”
The adjudicator highlighted that the crime was not about Joseph stealing to feed his family or survival, but to get an illegal substance and “Joseph’s minimisation of his own frame of mind was dishonest”.
At the same time, the judge said it was understandable and mitigated further by Joseph’s weak intelligence, and by the fact, in the end, he admitted it.
But, on the flip side, the judge also pointed out that despite his limited education and being someone who was easily led, Joseph was consistent and fluent in his lies for quite some time.
It should also be noted, that even though Joseph pleaded guilty to the offence several years after it occurred, according to the evidence, he remained loyal to his co-accused when he was first questioned in 2014 before being charged in 2016.
Had it not been for a neighbour who found the murder weapon on Chiddick’s property, it was unlikely the police would have cracked the case then.
Justice Morley further raised the issue that Joseph was previously not of good character at the time of the murder, though his brushes with the law were for minor offences.
In handing down the sentence, the judge stated that the maximum sentence for manslaughter is life in prison, so Joseph received significant reductions for pleading guilty, testifying against his co-accused and because of his limited education which made him impressionable.
The judge ruled that Joseph would be eligible for remission for good behaviour after serving two-thirds of his sentence. The convicted man’s lawyer, Lawrence Daniel, has since asked the court that he be kept in maximum security or somewhere far away from Chiddick who was earlier sentenced to 42 years in jail for the murder.