Man Who Boasted About Murder Given Lengthy Jail Term In St Vincent

(CMC) — A St Vincent High Court judge has sentenced a 29-year-old man to 45 years in jail after he was found guilty of murdering a 21-year-old man three years ago.

Mwata Henry was initially suspected of murder but was charged with the crime only after he boasted about it to other prisoners.

He had been found guilty of the January 24, 2018 murder of Jahbarry Charles on May 5 and his sentencing had been set for last Friday when Henry maintained his innocence, but told the court “to not sentence me as an innocent man”.

However, Justice Brian Cottle handed down the 45-year jail sentence on Monday, three days after the convicted man opted to mitigate on his own behalf, rather than have his court-appointed attorney Stephen Williams do so.

The High Court heard that on January 24, 2018, Charles and friends were at a playing field celebrating his birthday when gunshots rang out and several of those present were injured.

Charles, who was later found in a banana field with gunshot injuries, was taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital where he died of his injuries.

The police had detained Henry the night of the shooting as the main suspect but he was released after 48 hours. However, a few weeks later, Henry was jailed on an unrelated matter and on March 5, 2018, he boasted to his cellmates that he and other men had “rolled up” on Charles as he was celebrating his birthday.

Henry told his cellmates that he had acted pre-emptively, having learnt that Charles had accepted a contract to kill him.

One of Henry’s cellmates, a non-national, was disturbed by the callous boasting and reported the matter to the police. The cellmates, including the non-national, who has since returned to his country, testified at the trial via Skype and remained unshaken during cross-examination by Williams.

At the sentencing, Justice Cottle said that the killing took place in full view of the public and that there was some level of planning and premeditation involved.

The judge noted that Henry had previous convictions including robbery that involved the use of a gun.

As mitigating features, Justice Cottle considered that Henry is still relatively young and was 25 at the time of the crimes. He has a 12-year-old daughter and his mother, Annmarie Walters, who he called as a character witness, said that while he was stubborn as a youth, he never disrespected her.

The judge, however, concluded that the aggravating features outweighed the mitigating features and sentenced him to 45 years in jail.

He said Henry was found guilty after a full trial and was, therefore, not entitled to any discount on his sentence. The High Court, however, deducted from the sentence the four years, two months and six days Henry spent on remand before his sentencing.

Justice Cottle explained to Henry that he did not receive a life sentence and, as it regards parole, he is eligible for a remission of up to one-third at the discretion of the prison authorities if he displays good behaviour.