Oneal Griffith, a La Grange, West Bank Demerara boat captain was on Wednesday sentenced to 75 years in prison by High Court Judge Navindra Singh for the December 2015 murder of Brazilian gold miner, Braz Alves Dos Santos. Griffith, a father of two, was on trial for the murder before Justice Singh and a jury at the High Court in Essequibo.
Following his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to the murder indictment.
He was represented by Attorney-at-law Ravindra Mohabir, while the case for the prosecution was presented by State Counsel Tiffini Lyken. According to reports, Dos Santos was shot to the neck by Griffith, who invaded a mining camp at Puruni, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) where he was working. After he killed the miner, Griffith escaped with a quantity of raw gold, a boat, and an engine.
The killer was captured shortly at Itaballi, Region Seven. It was reported that the stolen vessel and raw gold were found in his possession. He was positively identified by a worker of the mining camp.
After deliberating for a little over two hours, the 12-member mixed jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. Notwithstanding the verdict, Griffith professed his innocence. When given a chance to address the court, the convicted killer accused the prosecution witnesses of telling lies about him.
“…I am a boat captain, I was on the landing the night this incident was committed. I am an innocent man. I don’t know anything about this charge. I am merely telling the truth that I am innocent. There is no evidence to say that I am guilty; they are lying all the time. God sees and knows everything,” he cried.
For his part, Mohabir, in mitigation asked the court to temper justice with mercy. He said that his client is a first-time offender. Prosecutor Lyken, on the other hand, urged the court to consider the serious nature of the offence and the fact that a deadly weapon was used during the commissioning of the crime. The prosecutor also highlighted that Griffith has shown no remorse for his actions.
In sentencing Griffith, Justice Singh noted that felony murder, as in this case, “is a far too prevalent crime in Guyana.”
Noting that Griffith’s lawyer said that his client is a first-time offender, Justice Singh added, “First off, he choose a big one to start with. Maybe this was the first time he was caught, or the first time [it] ended up in a robbery.”
“This individual should not see the light of day again,” the judge declared as he described the killing as a “heinous crime.” The judge commenced the sentence at a base of 60 years to which another 15 years were added for aggravating factors including the use of a deadly weapon.
In the end, the killer was sentenced to 75 years imprisonment. The judge ordered that the prison authority is to deduct the time he spent in pretrial custody from the sentence. Justice Singh further ordered that Griffith only becomes eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 50 years in prison.