Act #1 scene #1
1 According to Jamaican media, Former police constable Mark Russell wept openly after he was sentenced to life in prison for assisting in the execution-style killing of a 17-year-old boy in 2007.
He will have to serve 24 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
The 34-year-old ex-constable, who was assigned to the Hunts Bay Police Station in St Andrew, was sentenced by Justice David Fraser. The judge said that he (Russell) would not have been eligible for parole until after 30 years if he had not already spent six years in custody — one year in the United States, where he had fled, and the remaining years in Jamaica after he was extradited.
Act #2 scene #2
A Westmoreland man who admitted his involvement in the 2012 execution-style killing of three persons employed to Guardsman Security Company today thanked the judge after he was told he could regain his freedom in 15 years. Twenty-seven-year-old Jason Buckland was today sentenced to life in prison for the grisly murders, but presiding judge Justice Bertram Morrison stipulated that he must serve 15 years before he is eligible for parole.
Morrison said that was the best he could do after announcing the sentence in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston. He said he took into consideration the fact that Buckland pleaded guilty and cooperated with the police and has been in custody for five years. Buckland whispered “thank you” to Morrison and glanced over at a relative before he was led out in handcuffs.
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I hold no brief for murderers, so let me say I am thrilled that the justice system worked, at least against these two alleged murderers.
What I would like to briefly respond to, is the apparent glaring difference in the sentencing of the two suspects after they were found guilty of murder in the same small country in two separate courtrooms and by two different judges.
♦In the one case, there is a cop who allegedly betrayed his oath and assisted in what has been characterized as an execution of a young man they say shot at a joint police military patrol.
I was not there so I can only speak to what has been reported and tendered in evidence.
Verdict, 30 years!
♦On the other, there is a scenario in which the defendant Jason Buckwald plead guilty to assisting in taking the lives of not one, not two but three innocent Jamaicans who had done nothing wrong.
Verdict, 20 years.
In both cases, the defendants are being allowed discretion for time served.
Notwithstanding, the ten years difference cannot be ignored when one considers that the murderer who helped to take several lives was sentenced to a shorter time in prison than the law enforcement official who went out to enforce the laws and is alleged to have taken a single life…
The message inherent here it seems is that if you must kill, kill several people.
Based on this theory the mass killer will be out of jail in 10-years while the cop who assisted in the killing of a single person will not get out for another 24-years.
What is the rationale for the vastly disparate difference in the two sentences?
As former police officers those of us who spent time in the courtrooms understand all too well the blatant biases which has existed in these halls for decades against police officers.
If this former police officer did what he was accused of doing there is nothing that I would personally say in his defense.
Regardless of what an offender does, once he is captured the police cannot under any circumstances begin to physically abuse that offender, much less kill that offender.
Once an offender is captured and is placed in handcuffs, even if he was just trying to kill the officer that officer has a duty to ensure safe custody of that prisoner to a prescribed place.
The prospect of killing an offender who has been captured and as per the allegations, was already shot, is outside of anything I can envisage.
There is absolutely no place in a civilized society in which that kind of barbaric behavior can be tolerated.
With that said the fact that an offender confesses to being a part of taking three lives is monumentally significant.
It is for that reason that I have consistently called for mandatory minimum sentences for murder.
There has to be uniformity in the sentences which are meted out for the most heinous crimes.
This must be removed from the hands of judges. Once a person takes another person’s life he or she must know what the consequences are going to be on conviction.
There are instances where prosecutors may ask for a lighter sentence for a confessed offender who has been instrumental in assisting law enforcement.
That should stop at manslaughter. Giving a triple murderer a 15-year sentence then telling him “this is the best I can do” reeks of empathy, something a trial judge should never express for a convicted mass murderer.
On the contrary, the judge overseeing the trial of the errant cop was quick to point out that had he not already served 6‑years in jail he would have to serve 30 ‑years before he could expect to be paroled, even though he only assisted in one killing.
Outside of the fact that the cop ought to have known better there seem to have been an inherent bias against the cop, something we have not seen displayed against the mass murderers who on occasion do pass through the court’s system.