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A 32-year-old man was urged to avoid bad company on Wednesday before he was immediately released from prison for his role in a 2005 murder.

Ricardo Gittens was 15 at the time of the murder of Joseph Self, who was stabbed to death, partially burnt and thrown off a precipice at La Laja Road, Blanchisseuse Road, Arima, on November 9, 2005.

On Wednesday, Gittens was put on an order of three years of supervision by Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds after he pleaded guilty earlier in November.

In her sentencing, Ramsumair-Hinds said she rejected submissions that the only appropriate and mandatory substitute for the death penalty for a child offender was life, and referred to section 75 of the Children Act, which allows a sentencing court to apply individual sentences.

“I can find no useful purpose for you spending one more night in custody,” she said, but urged him to work with the probation officers’ department while under their supervision for the next three years to help his reintegration and re-entry into society.

“You have no clue what you are coming out to meet. It is a different society, a harsher society you’re reintegrating into. You would need help.”

The 16 years and three months he has spent in custody were discounted from the 20-year starting-point sentence the judge set.

Gittens faced an earlier trial in 2019, but the jury failed to arrive at a unanimous verdict.

Ramsumair-Hinds said she could understand why. It was also stated that the killing had the element of a hate crime, as one of Gittens’s friends had told him Self wanted to have sex with him.

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The judge read excerpts from Gittens’s interview with the police. In it, he said he, Self and two others were by a friend drinking puncheon and Supligen when he was told what Self allegedly wanted to do, and agreed to kill him.

The group left and went to Demerara Road, where one of them pulled out a knife and stabbed Self.

Gittens admitted to stabbing Self twice in the back.

They put Self in the trunk of his car and took him to a river. When they got there, Self, who was still alive, “pelt a chop” at one of the friends, and two others, identified as Ricky and Puerto Rican, hit him with a stone.

They then went to Blanchisseuse to dump the body. Before they tossed him on the ground, they stabbed Self in the belly with the cutlass. He was then doused with gas, lit on fire and thrown down the precipice.

In sentencing Gittens, the judge acknowledged the role he played in the killing.

“I am not sentencing Puerto Rican or Ricky or anybody else who went to Blanchisseuse.

“He (Gittens) did participate,” she said.

She told him at the age of 15, he should have been at home.

“That’s where a 15-year-old should be, not drinking puncheon.”

She acknowledged his attempts at rehabilitation while in prison, where he attained CSEC passes, and encouraged him to go back and get more.

“Go do the maths and English.”

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While also admitting she had concerns about his re-entry into society, Ramsumair-Hinds said the punitive element of punishment had been satisfied.

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Gittens will return to court once a year for three years for a progress report on the anniversary of his sentencing date. He will report to the probation department every six months.

Ramsumair-Hinds told him, “You have already paid a penalty of 16-plus years. This (conviction) will hang over your head.

“Always recognise what you did, what you participated in, and how you found yourself out of the realm and element.You found yourself thrust into something way bigger than you.

“Try to avoid that. Try to tap into what is good in you.”

Gittens was represented by deputy chief public defender Raphael Morgan. Ambay Ramkellawan represented the State.


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