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Murderer gets life

Judge: Man's actions do not warrant death penalty
  • Michael Beckford was sentenced to life in prison for a 2008 murder.

NG Senior Reporter

Published: Sep 17, 2011

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A man who slit his girlfriend’s throat and then set her body afire has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Michael Beckford killed Sheanda Newton in October 2008 after they argued about whether she was “sick”, according to the evidence presented at trial.

Citing precedents set out by the Privy Council cases of Maxo Tido and Earnest Lockhart, Justice Vera Watkins said Beckford’s actions did not warrant the death penalty.

Prior to 2006, all murder convicts were condemned to death regardless of any mitigating factors that might have been present. In March 2006, the Privy Council ruled that this practice was unconstitutional.

Watkins said, “I am mindful of the fact that the circumstances of the present case, as in all cases of murder, are tragic and the resulting pain and suffering for the family members and loved ones of the victims are undoubtedly immeasurable.

“I am also mindful of the fact that Beckford displayed a casual or total disrespect for human life. However, upon reviewing the circumstances surrounding the killing of the victim in this case and the guidelines set out in the above mentioned cases, I am of the view that killing of the victim in the present case does not fall in the category of those that warrant the most condign punishment of death.”

Watkins said that Beckford had no previous convictions for causing harm to another person and he was gainfully employed prior to his remand on the murder charge.

Watkins said that apart from arguing with Beckford, it appears that Newton did nothing to trigger the violent attack. She said the argument over whether Newton was sick “cannot justify the extreme reaction of Beckford.”

She said, “According to Constable Dario Burrows, Beckford drove to his home, retrieved a bottle of diesel and then drove the victim to an area of Nassau Village where he assaulted her, dragged her out of his car, poured diesel over her body, placed a lit newspaper next to her body and then left her. Based on the sequence of events it appears as if Beckford had ample time for him to recover from anything the victim may have said during the argument.

“This leads me to conclude that Beckford’s reaction is disproportional to the actions of the victim. Further, Beckford has expressed no empathy for the victim or her family.

“I note there has been a tragic loss of human life. Apart from the issue of whether or not the victim was ‘sick’ there is no indication as to a motive for the killing of the victim. The evidence does, however, suggest that Beckford showed no respect for human life.

“The victim’s throat was cut in two areas. The act of setting fire to a newspaper and leaving it next to the victim’s diesel soaked body indicates sadistic motivation on the part of Beckford.”

Lifers have served anywhere from 10 years to their natural lives, depending on the decision of the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy.Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham recently said government plans to introduce legislation to ensure that persons who receive life sentences die in prison.

Beckford was on bail for the murder of Michael Knowles when he killed Newton. Beckford was acquitted of Knowles' murder last year.

His lawyer, Dorsey McPhee, said he plans to appeal the conviction and sentence. Linda Evans appeared for the Crown.


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