Excerpts from Rushane Barnett's sentencing hearing on Thursday
The sentencing hearing for Rushane Barnett, who confessed to killing his cousin and her four children in June, got under way in the Home Circuit Court on Thursday.
Barnett pleaded guilty on July 28 to the murder of 31-year-old Kemesha Wright and her children: 15-year-old Kimanda Smith, 12-year-old Sharalee Smith, five-year-old Rafaella Smith and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had initially served a notice of death penalty on Barnett after he confessed to the killings.
However, on Thursday, DPP Paula Llewellyn explained that her office is no longer seeking the death penalty due to the fact that Barnett had pleaded guilty to all five counts of murder at the first available date.
In light of this, she said "The Crown would then be obliged to remove the option of pursuing the death penalty as an option in sentencing before this court."
Although the law permits that a judge may reduce a sentence by as much as 33 1/3 per cent if a defendant pleads guilty on the first relevant date, the DPP urged the court "not to reduce the sentence at all, by anything" because this alone would shock the public conscience.
Instead, she submitted that Barnett be sentenced to life imprisonment and serve 60 years and nine months on each count before he is eligible for parole.
She said this is based on several aggravating factors, to include the ages of the victims, that they were killed within sight of each other, the nature of their injuries, that the deceased were family of the offender and that the offence was pre-meditated.
The DPP also asked the court to take into account that Barnett was an occasional caregiver of the children, that he threw away his shorts and the knife before leaving the murder scene and that he knew what he was doing.
But the attorney who represents Barnett, Tamika Harris, begged the court to consider that he "pleaded guilty before he even had the opportunity to examine the strength of the case against him". She added that he waited for the police to come and get him, and when they did so, "he gave them a caution statement and admitted to the acts".
In light of these factors, she urged the judge to grant Barnett a discount of 10 per cent, which would make him eligible for parole after 45 years.
The sentencing has been pushed back to October 20 at 2:00 p.m., when Justice Leighton Pusey will hand down his ruling.
Barnett will be remanded in custody until then.
Forensic psychiatrist report
In her submission to the court, DPP Paula Llewellyn read from a forensic psychiatrist's report, dated July 27, 2022, which found that Barnett possessed superficial charm, a tendency to be smooth, engaging, slick.
He was described as deceitful, lacking openness, lacking remorse and empathy and failed to accept responsibility for his actions.
The report said Barnett showed adult anti-social behaviour, the tendency to act on impulse rather than on thought, and he had poor behavioural control or had the tendency to exhibit socially inappropriate behaviour.
The forensic psychiatrist found that Barnett admits to killing the five family members but claims that "voices in his head told him to do so". The report said he claims he has been hearing voices since he was 18 years old.
The report also said he was not influenced by an abnormality of the mind at the time of the offence, that he understood the nature of the offence but says "obeah forced him to do it".
The forensic psychiatrist concluded that Barnett presented with no major mental illness and was not suicidal, but he displayed anti-social personality traits.
It said he was fit to plead and the trial could proceed.
Injury report and caution statement
The injuries sustained by the victims and the caution statement given by Barnett to the police on June 22 were also read out in court.
The five family members were stabbed and their throats slashed at their home in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon on June 21.
The post mortem report revealed that Barnett inflicted a total of 95 knife wounds on his cousins.
Miss Wright, who Barnett claimed disrespected him in front of a customer, sparking the deadly attack, received the brunt of the injuries with 48 stab wounds.