A Petit Bordel man has been jailed for killing another villager, the second such sentence handed down on him in less than 20 years.
On Friday, Justice Rickie Burnett sentenced James Francois, 53, to eight years in prison in connection with the Feb. 28, 2020 death of fellow villager, Edward Lavia.
Francois was tried for murder, but after a trial that ended on May 22, 2023, the 12-member jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter by reason of provocation.
During his trial, Francois had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, a lesser charge, but the Crown rejected it.
Therefore, the judge applied a 15% discount to the sentence, which took off one year and four months, leaving seven years and eight months.
And when the three years, five months and three days that Francois spent on remand was deducted from the sentence, he was left with a further four years, two months and 27 days in prison from last Friday.
The prosecution’s case was that on Feb. 28, 2020, Lavia was in conversation with another man when Francois, who was nearby, took offence to something Lavia said to the other man.
Francois commented that if it were he (Francois), Lavia could not have “gone down in my mother”.
An argument ensued between Lavia and Francois and Francois threw a liquid believed to be rum in Lavia’s face.
Lavia responded by pushing Francois, who fell and sustained an injury to his mouth.
Lavia then left the area and went into a neighbouring yard and Francois followed him, armed with a bottle and attempted to stab him.
On Francois’ second attempt, the bottle landed in Lavia’s neck and he fell on the steps of the yard to which he (Lavia) had earlier retreated.
Francois left the yard and went up the road and other people went to Lavia’s assistance.
He, however, died the same day and a post mortem concluded that death resulted from a stab wound to the neck.
The defence’s case, however, was that on the date in question, there was an argument between Francois and Lavia and Lavia boxed Francois and caused injury to his tooth and mouth.
Lavia also pushed Francois, who had his back turned to Lavia.
Francois had a rum bottle in his hand and it broke as he fell to the ground as a result of Lavia pushing him.
Francois saw Lavia entering a nearby yard and he followed him, believing Lavia was going to get a cutlass to attack him.
When Francois went into the yard, he did not see a weapon in Lavia’s hand, but he struck Lavia “somewhere on his body” and saw blood.
Francois left and waited for the police at a shop in another area in the village.
Police arrested Francois on Feb. 28, 2023 on suspicion of murder. In a caution statement, he told detectives that Lavia had burst his head before and he had forgotten about that.
He, however, said Lavia constantly harassed him and on the day in question, Lavia saw him and “tackle me again”, boxing him and bursting his mouth.
Francois proffered this defence and brought one witness, who testified that both men worked together and Lavia used to harass Francois, especially when he was drunk.
In handing down his sentence, Justice Burnett explored the issue of provocation, saying that it can take place over a short or extended period of time.
He noted that three years before the incident, Lavia may have chopped Francois in his head with a cutlass, resulting in hospitalisation.
The judge said that on the day in question, Lavia hit Francois on the mouth and pushed him to the ground, causing injuries to the mouth.
Francois testified that Lavia had attacked him and he retaliated, Justice Burnett noted.
The court determined there was a lower level of provocation in the matter and established a starting point of 10 years.
The judge said the aggravating features of the offence were that it took place in the full view of the public and on private property and the use of alcohol might have contributed to Francois’ loss of self-control.
Mitigating was that there was intention to cause serious bodily harm rather than to kill and Francois’ conduct after the incident, in that he waited for the police to arrive and take him into custody.
The judge concluded that the mitigating features of the offence outweighed the aggravating and reduced the sentence by one year, to nine years imprisonment.
He said the aggravating features of the offence was that Francois has a previous conviction for manslaughter.
Mitigating was the remorse that he had shown through his assistance to law enforcement.
The judge concluded that these factors balanced each other out and made no further adjustment to the sentence.
In relation to Francois’ first manslaughter conviction, on June 15, 2004, Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle sentenced Francois to eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Francois was initially charged with murder in connection with the death of Charles Pierre, of Petit Bordel, but the Crown accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter.
His lawyer, Stephen Williams, begged for leniency for his client, saying that Pierre had provoked and threatened Francois.
The lawyer said Francois was at a shop when he got involved in a dispute with another man and Pierre interviewed.
Pierre later sustained cutlass wounds and died.
Williams said Francois was “not a man of a violent nature” and that the offence was a “one-off transaction”.