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Murderer escapes death sentence

A judge on Tuesday imposed a life sentence on a murder convict, one week after the Privy Council clarified which murder cases deserve the death penalty.

However, that does not mean Angelo Poitier, 26, will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars for the May 27, 2009 murder of his girlfriend Shanise Adderley, as he could be released on parole.

Unlike in England, judges in The Bahamas do not have the statutory authority to determine how many years a prisoner must serve before he is eligible for parole. Persons sentenced to life imprisonment have served from 10 years to their entire lives in prison.

Poitier choked Adderley to death after an argument in which he accused her of “playing with his emotions, his mind and his heart.”

In his police statement, which was admitted during the trial, Poitier said Adderley fell to the ground when he released the grip on her neck, which he held for 30 minutes. He said he became afraid after he realized she had no pulse and placed her body in a grave in the Veteran’s Cemetery with the help of a friend.

Justice Vera Watkins said she did not consider imposing the death penalty because his crime did not “fall into the category of those that warrant the most condign punishment of death.”

Justice Watkins said she considered the Privy Council decision, which overturned Maxo Tido’s death sentence, in determining an appropriate punishment.

She noted that the Privy Council did not believe that Tido’s crime was the “worst of the worst” although his victim had severe head injuries, inflicted either by a large rock or by being rolled over by a car, and her body had been burned.

She said based on the guidelines enunciated by the Privy Council in the Tido case last week, “It is apparent that the circumstances in the present case do not fall into the category of ‘the worst of the worst’ or the ‘rarest of the rare’ cases of murder.

“There is no evidence that the killing of the victim was carefully planned or that it was carried out in furtherance of another crime such as armed robbery, rape, drug smuggling, drug wars, gang enforcement policies, kidnapping or preventing witnesses from testifying.

“There is nothing to suggest Poitier is a serial killer and there is nothing to suggest that Poitier killed an innocent victim for the gratification of base desires such as a sadistic murder of a child for purposes of sexual gratification, a terrorist atrocity, causing multiple deaths or a contract killing.”

Justice Watkins said it was reasonable to conclude that the decision to choke Adderley was “made on the spur of the moment.”

She said although Poitier held Adderley’s neck for an inordinate period, the pathologist said she may have lost consciousness after 20 seconds.

The judge reasoned: “This is an indication that it is highly likely that the victim did not suffer pain for much longer than 20 seconds.”

Justice Watkins said Poitier showed a “total disrespect for human life” and an “absolute lack of dignity” for Adderley after he had choked her.

According to Poitier’s statement, he choked Adderley after she pointed her hand in his face when he questioned her about what she had worn to work. Justice Watkins said that Poitier’s reaction showed that he had difficulties controlling his emotions and/or dealing with conflicts.

Justice Watkins also noted that neither the probation report nor the pyschiatrist report suggested that Poitier was a danger to the public.

Justice Watkins said she considered the views of the Privy Council in the Tido case, the mitigating factors for Poitier and the callous and cold-hearted circumstances in which Adderley was killed in deciding on a life sentence.

Terrell Butler represented Poitier. Sandradee Gardiner appeared for the Crown.

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