(CNS): Justin D’Angelo Ramoon (25) was given a 35-year life sentence tariff Monday for the execution style killing of Jason Powery in 2015. His older brother, Osbourne Wilfred Douglas (30), who supplied the gun and drove the getaway car, was handed a 34-year term in the first case of a gang-related fatal shooting where a judge decided the life tariffs. The George Town brothers were convicted of murder in a joint enterprise earlier this year and became the first local gunmen to be handed a specific minimum term.
As he handed down the life sentences, the judge explained that he believed there were exceptional circumstances that, under the new Conditional Release Law, allowed him to increase the starting point from 30 years.
The men have served 522 days in jail on remand, which means that Ramoon will be almost 60 years old before he can be even considered for release, while his older brother will be close to 63 years old. The twelve month difference in the tariffs reflected the fact that Ramoon has a previous conviction for a firearms offence.
The two men sat quietly in the dock as Justice Charles Quin delivered his detailed sentencing ruling. The judge raised concerns about the “very serious escalation of gun crime” in Cayman over the past seven years and pointed to the need for a meaningful deterrent in this case.
The judge said the killing involved “a significant degree of planning and sophistication”. With no evidence of provocation, Ramoon had collected the weapon from Douglas, approached his victim, raised his gun and shot Powery in the head at point-blank range. As he made to leave, he raised his weapon at another man who witnessed the killing but the gun failed to fire. Ramoon then made his escape with Douglas, who had positioned the car in preparation for the getaway.
“It was, in fact, a very public execution of the most evil nature,” Justice Quin stated as he handed down his decision. “It could be accurately described as chillingly clinical in its planning and execution.”
The gun in this case has never been recovered and the judge urged those in the community who may know what happened to this weapon to come forward.
“People must help the police in their difficult task of finding out who is bringing the illegal guns into the Cayman Islands and who is harbouring the illegal guns,” the judge said. “Over the past years too many young Caymanians have lost their lives because of illegal guns.” He also pointed out that the firearms are being used in robberies that are terrifying small business owners.
Under the new Conditional Release Law judges must now indicate a minimum period for life terms that a convicted person must serve before they can be considered for release but the decision to allow a killer out on licence will be at the discretion of the board. The law stipulates a starting point of 30 years but provides room for a judge to decrease or increase the term depending on the exceptional circumstances.
This is only the second life tariff determined by the courts. In the first, Tamara Butler was given a 28-year term for killing her daughter. The judge reduced the tariff because of the circumstances relating to Butler’s mental health issues.
The 30-year term has raised human rights questions for lifers who were sentenced before the change in the law. Although the tariff was introduced to meet the requirements of the Bill of Rights, in reality ‘life’ has not meant life for any prisoner.
Since the abolition of the death penalty in Cayman, most convicted killers have been released on licence by the governor. None of those that have been released had served as much as 30 years, leaving current ‘lifers’ with the expectation that once they had served around 20 years, they could be considered for release on licence. The new legislation, however, means that unless a judge finds exceptional circumstances, they all face the prospect of serving much more time than they had previously come to expect before they can make a case for their release.