The Richland Park man who chopped his nephew to death during a manic episode of bipolar disorder two years ago has been sentenced to a further two year, three months, and 26 days in prison.
Justice Brian Cottle, however, suspended the sentence for two years, on condition that the man, Tzan “Zaza” Phillips, 24, continues to comply with his medical treatment.
In handing down the sentence, on Friday, at High Court No. 1, in Kingstown, Justice Cottle said that in the circumstances of the case, it was clear that punishment by incarceration would not serve as a general or specific deterrent.
He said there was no requirement to protect society from Tzan, once he continues to comply with his prescribed treatment.
On the issue of rehabilitation, the judge said the court could do no better than character witness Brandon Charles, who grew up with Phillips.
“To even ask about rehabilitation would mean that he has bad qualities,” Charles said in his affidavit.
The judge noted that Phillips is a young man who, when he was unwell, killed his beloved nephew.
“He is now keenly aware of his action and is responding well to his medical treatment and this sense of remorse led him to plead guilty.”
The judge said that while the court accepted the guilty plea, it was possible that a jury might have absolved Tzan of criminal responsibility for his action done while mentally ill.
The judge reiterated that Tzan’s condition was undiagnosed and untreated at the time of the offences.
The judge told Tzan that he needs to maintain his treatment, adding that it is good that his family circle will assist him in that regard.
“There are things that have happened that cannot be undone,” Justice Cottle said, telling Tzan these are things with which he must live.
“I can’t imagine how difficult that must be,” he said, adding that what happened was tragic and the court did not feel that it should do anything to increase the level of suffering that the family must be going through.
Initially charged with murder
Phillips was initially charged with the murder of his nephew Jamarie Phillips, one day after his 9th birthday.
However, the charge was reduced to manslaughter, and, on April 26, he pleaded guilty to that count, as well as one count of wounding and one court of damage to property.
The sentencing was initially scheduled for Thursday, but the judge further adjourned it to Friday, after hearing the mitigation of defence counsel, Duane Daniel, who filed seven affidavits of character on behalf of his client.
In handing down the sentence, two days before Tzan’s 24th birthday, Justice Cottle said he had considered the affidavit, as well as the social inquiry report.
He noted that the maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment, 14 years for wounding, and 10 for damage to property.
Proclaiming blood of Jesus while brandishing cutlass
The facts of the case, as presented by the judge, are that on May 29, 2020, Tzan was at home with Jamarie Phillips.
Tzan’s father was out attending to his livestock when he received the news that his son had killed his grandson.
He returned home to Jamarie’s lifeless body.
Many residents of Richland Park had seen Tzan on the day of the killing. He was behaving in a strange manner, proclaiming the blood of Jesus while brandishing a cutlass.
He ran from villagers who tried to disarm him as others were engaging him in conversation.
One female villager ran away after Tzan charged at her with the weapon, asking her if she believed that Jesus would resurrect her if he killed her.
After killing his nephew, Tzan told a shopkeeper what he had done, saying that he had asked Jamarie if he was willing to die and the child had responded in the affirmative.
When the shopkeeper tried to restrain him, Tzan jumped off the roof of the house and escaped.
He told one woman that he wanted to study the word of God and become a pastor.
He also told her that he had attempted suicide after killing his nephew, who he said had agreed to be sacrificed in order to go to heaven.
Along the Richland Park Public Road, Tsan went into the path of a vehicle and struck and damaged it.
When the owner, Vibert Nedd exited the vehicle and asked Tzan why he had done that, Tsan struck him to the head, wounding the man, leaving him unconscious.
The police responded and shot Tzan in the foot in order to restrain him, he having responded violently to them.
He was taken for medical attention for his injury, and a psychiatrist examined and diagnosed him with Bipolar I disorder (pronounced “bipolar one”).
The psychiatrist said Tzan had been displaying symptoms of the condition at the time of the killing.
Villager reported that Tzan had been acting strangely since the day before he killed his nephew.
Tzan was treated for this psychiatric condition and police later interviewed him.
He admitted to killing his nephew and expressed shock and bewilderment at what he had done.
disorder completely undiagnosed
Justice Cottle noted the aims of criminal punishment, namely sentencing, retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and prevention.
He further noted that Tzan has no previous convictions, and is complying with the treatment for his diagnosed medical disorder.
Tzan had been on bail and during that time, his behaviour was exemplary, the judge further noted.
He noted that the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has guidelines for sentencing people for manslaughter and that the court must follow them unless doing so would lead to injustice in any particular case.
Justice Cottle, however, said that Tzan’s was “a very unusual case” for which adjustments were needed.
In determining the starting point for the sentence, the judge said that the intention of the offender is a very important consideration when assessing the seriousness of the offence.
He said that the difficulty of the case was that the guidelines did not seem to contemplate cases such as Tzan’s, where the offender’s mental capacity is diminished because of a disorder.
The judge noted that the United Kingdom has sentencing guidelines for manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
He said that in the extant case, Tzan’s disorder was completely undiagnosed and, consequently, untreated.
The judge said it is quite difficult to speak of intention to cause any harm in circumstances were the mind of the offender is so affected by his condition.
The judge noted that the psychiatric report said that when interviewed, Tzan expressed bewilderment and remorse for his actions.
At the time of the killing, Tzan was experiencing auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) and his thinking was delusional and disorganised.
Tzan could hear the voice of God in his head telling him he could raise people from the dead and he considered killing himself or another person to test his powers of resurrection.
The judge established a starting point of six years in prison.
He said that aggravating was the fact that a weapon was used and that the victim was vulnerable because of his age.
There was nothing mitigating of the offence except for the absence of premeditation.
He found no aggravating feature of the offender, adding that the fact that he had no previous conviction, and was young — 21 years old — at the time were mitigating factors.
Justice Cottle noted that several witnesses provided affidavits attesting to Tzan’s good character.
Tzan had been released on bail after being treated at the Mental Health Centre and most residents of Richland Park who were interviewed for the social inquiry report expressed shock that he committed the offence.
They said he was quiet, polite, and an avid sportsman.
The residents were of the view that Tzan’s actions resulted from a mental disorder.
Since he was diagnosed and treated, they do not see Tzan as a threat to the community.
Further, his family members have rallied in support of Tzan as he continues to be treated for the disorder.
The judge said his family support was important as the court considered the aims of sentencing.
The judge reduced the starting sentence by 18 months, taking it to 4.5 years.
Tzan pleaded guilty at first opportunity and the court granted him the full one-third discount, taking the sentence to three years.
He had spent eight months and four days on remand, and when this was deducted, it took the sentence for manslaughter to two years, three months, and 26 days.
‘a manic mental state’
On the wounding charge, the judge noted that the victim received a laceration to the right side of his face and there was some swelling associated with the wound. His left forearm was also fractured.
He said Tzan inflicted the injuries whilst in “a manic mental state” and there was no suggestion of malice or premeditation.
The judge began with a sentence of 20% of the maximum or two years and nine months.
He said that the aggravating and mitigating features of the offence are akin to those of the manslaughter charge.
Justice Cottle said that the mitigating features of the offender outweigh any mitigating feature of the offence, of which there were none.
He moved the sentence down by one year.
From the remaining 21 months, seven months were deducted for early guilty plea, to arrive at a sentence of 14 months. The court then subtracted the eight months and four days spent on remand, leaving a sentence of five months and 26 days.
The judge said that the damage to property was a minor offence that would have been dealt with by a magistrate had it not been joined with the two other serious offences.
He ordered Tzan to pay a fine of EC$400 forthwith — which was paid — and ordered that the sentenced for the two other counts run concurrently as the offences were part of a single incident
The court also ordered that Tzan continues to receive treatment for his condition.