Couple gets life in prison despite petitioners’ plea for mercy

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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THREE hundred and fifty signatures from residents of the Coltart Grove community in St Ann, petitioning for mercy for the Dean family, who were convicted of killing a mentally ill man 10 years ago, could not prevent two of them from being given life sentences in the Home Circuit Court yesterday.

The frail-looking couple was sentenced, along with their three sons, two of whom received 20 years while the third was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Velma Dean, her husband Joseph, and their sons Jermaine, Dwight and Richard were convicted for the murder of Stanley McLean in Coltart Grove, St Ann, on July 6, 2007.

Prosecutors led evidence that the 29-year-old man was stoned and chopped to death by the family after he stole a piece of electrical cord from their home.

Justice Carol Lawrence-Beswick, in handing down the sentence yesterday, ruled that 65-year-old Velma, who the court heard was the instigator, will be required to serve 33 years in prison before being eligible for parole, while Joseph, 69, will have to serve 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Richard, 44, and Dwight, 38, who were both sentenced to 20 years in prison, will be eligible for parole after serving 12 years, while Jermaine, a 29-year-old security guard, will be eligible for parole after serving 10 of his 15 years.

Velma, who appeared to be suffering from pain in one of her arms, was in tears when the sentence was handed down, and had to sit while her son Richard consoled her.

The judge, in handing down her sentence, told the tearful mother that she played the major role in McLean's murder and, being a mother, should have guided her children along the right path, as was expected of her, and should not have led them astray.

As it relates to Joseph, she told him he had a duty, as the father, to show and teach his children to respect life.

But before the sentence was passed, the family's lawyer, Ernest Smith, asked the judge to take into consideration the social enquiry report which states that his clients had the reputation of being humble, hard-working and decent Christian folks, and that the jury had accepted that what happened was out of character for them.

The lawyer also implored the judge to impose on his client the minimum sentence and give them a certificate to appeal the sentence.

Lawrence-Beswick, in her response, pointed out that she would consider each of them individually and that they were each found guilty of playing a part in the killing of a young man in the presence of his father.

“I know he was regarded as a nuisance but he had a right to life,” she said.

She also told the family that she would consider the hundreds of signatures community members had sent to her at the Supreme Court, which was a first-time experience for her despite her many years of serving on the bench.

“The family is loved and respected. I will bear that in mind and, at the same time, consider the sorrows experienced by the deceased's family,” she added.

Family members of the deceased were not present yesterday, but friends and relatives of the Deans who had appeared to show their support for the family were shocked by the sentence.

“It is unfair. It is outrageous,” said one of the couple's sons, Tavaughn. “No way you can give innocent people life in prison.”

“There are persons who have said that they were not involved,” he added.

Velma's sister, who was beside herself with shock and anger, said she had expected the judge to free the family because the victim had been a thorn in the family's side for many years and had destroyed their things.

“All me head a hot me, mi belly bottom a drop out,” she said.

“Me nuh have nuh more sister. A so the place unjust? Mama, you dead but you woulda dead again,” she was overheard saying as she sat outside the courthouse after the sentencing.

In the meantime, Smith said he will be appealing the sentences.

“Based on the evidence, the no-case submission should have been upheld. The evidence of the sole eyewitness was contradictory and was totally discredited by cross-examination,” he said, while noting the jury should not have been asked to deliberate.

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