NASSAU – Devaughn Hall was sentenced to 60 years in prison yesterday for the murders of Deadman’s Reef couple Barry and Sheena Johnson who were shot to death during an armed robbery at their home three years ago.
Supreme Court Justice Estelle Gray Evans noted that while the murders were “horrific, callous and cold-blooded” she was not satisfied the circumstances of their deaths fall in the category of the ‘worst of worst’ or ‘rarest of the rare’, or so exceptional for the imposition of the death penalty.
Hall, a 25-year-old father of two, aged two and five years, stood quietly and showed no emotion as the judge delivered the sentences.
On the counts one and two for the murders of Barry and Sheena Johnson, she sentenced him to 60 years imprisonment on each count. On the third count of armed robbery, Justice Evans sentenced him to 25 years imprisonment.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
While addressing the court, the judge said the Crown’s application for the imposition of the death penalty was denied.
“The imposition of the death penalty in my opinion is not a proper sentence in the deaths of Barry and Sheena Johnson as they do not fall in the category of the most extreme or exceptional as horrific as they were . . . and the Crown’s application for the imposition of death penalty is denied,” she said.
“While it is no doubt in my mind that the convict’s act of committing these murders wreaks of cold bloodedness, callousness, and senselessness, given the authorities as I understand them, I am not able to say I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the circumstances to which the murders were committed put them in the category of worst of worst or rarest of rare or the most exceptional when compared to other murder cases.”
She noted that although it has been argued by the prosecution that one reason of imposing the death penalty was the convict had shown no remorse in the face of overwhelming evidence which was an indication that he cannot be reformed.
Justice Evans said she was not of the view that Hall could not be reformed.
“No one really knows when a person is capable of being reformed or where and when a person may come to a point of remorse over the period of time,” she said.
“In the word of Justice Dame Joan Sawyer of Court of Appeal where a life sentence was overturned and a determinant term was imposed, she said that all persons who appear before the court deserve an opportunity for redemption.
“Those are comments which I fully concur and respectfully adopt . . . and bearing in mind that the death penalty should only be imposed in those exceptional cases where there is no reasonable prospect of reform and the object of punishment would not be achieve by any other means, which in my judgment is not the case in this case,”
She noted two lives of two productive citizens were snuffed out.
“While no one can know what was going through their minds, I believe it is reasonable to assume that at minimum that they (Barry and Sheena) were terrified,” Justice Evans stated.
She noted the incident happened late at night in the sanctity of the Johnsons’ home where they ought to feel safe.
“There is no doubt in my mind after having had opportunity to view the recording of the incident and to hear the testimony of the accomplices, that it must have been a traumatizing experience for the Johnsons held hostage at the mercy of four men, three of them armed with firearms,” she said.
Shirley Stubbs, the mother of Sheena, felt Hall should have received the death penalty.
“Justice is served, but I think he should get death for the killing my baby and he showed no remorse. It will not bring my child back, but I give God thanks and I will pray God will help give me closure,” said Stubbs, who said she could not sleep for several days.
Candy Johnson, the sister-in-law of Barry Johnson, who also read a victim impact statement in court before the sentencing, said the family has closure.
“It won’t bring them back, but hopefully we have some closure. It’s been one year at trial and it has been rough for both mothers (of the deceased).
Johnson said they can only visit the graveyard of their loved ones, but Hall still has life and that his family will be able visit him at Fox Hill Prison. She thanked Kemp and Brathwaite.
“It is little piece of closure, but it is not what we wanted. The healing process has been very long and it has been three years since they were murdered. At least he is not on the street and he will be away for a while, and we thank God for that,” she said.
Hall was represented by Jethlyn Burrows. Prosecutors Erica Kemp and Neil Brathwaite appeared for the Crown.