By Feona Morrison
Vanessa Baird was the first person sentenced to a term of imprisonment when the January session of the Demerara Criminal Assizes opened yesterday at the High Court in Georgetown. The killing stemmed over a $1,000 she had given a man to purchase a meal for her.
Baird was indicted for the capital offence of murder before Justice Navindra Singh.
Particulars of the charge stated that on Saturday, December 21, 2013 in the county of Demerara, she murdered Percival Williams. According to reports, Williams was 43 years of age at the time of his demise.
It was reported that Williams of Hague, West Coast Demerara, was murdered at Parika Stelling, East Bank Essequibo.
However, the mother of a seven-year-old son opted to plead guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Justice Singh sentenced Baird to serve a jail term of 12½ years.
Baird was represented by Attorney-at-Law Mark Conway who presented a plea of mitigation on her behalf.
Senior State Counsel Natasha Backer, State Counsel Abigail Gibbs and State Counsel Tiffini Lyken represented the prosecution.
According to the case presented by Prosecutor Gibbs, on the day in question, Baird met Percival, who she had given $1,000 to purchase a Chinese food for her. Baird had confronted the man and inquired about the money during which an argument ensued between them. It was reported that Percival converted the money to his own use.
In an effort to acquire her belonging, Prosecutor Gibbs said that Baird held on to Percival’s jersey and a scuffle resulted during which she whipped out a knife and stabbed the man to his lower chest.
As a result of the injury received, Percival fell to the ground and was later transported to the Leonora Cottage Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was given as perforation of the lungs and heart due to a stab wound.
During his address to the court, Conway said that at the time of the killing his client had a three-year-old son to support and she was finding it very frustrating and difficult to maintain the child since she was a single parent. According to the lawyer, although the money is insignificant when compared to life, Baird would have used it to buy food for her child.
Conway stated, “Since that incident and being at the Berbice Prison, she (Baird) has had many years to reflect and improve her mental state with respect to self control.”
The lawyer further stated that during her time incarcerated, Baird has not been “in trouble” with any inmate or Prison Officer. Conway said that prior to the killing, Baird never had any trouble with the law. He said that his client has been utilizing her time by attending drama and sewing classes which are being provided by the prison. He said that she has also been regularly attending church services.
The lawyer told the court that his client eagerly awaits the day when she can return home to take care of her son.
State Counsel Gibbs said that although the financial struggle that Baird faced at the time of the commissioning of the offence is understandable, Williams’s family is still mourning his death which was over a “pointless situation.”
Baird, on the other hand, said “I am really sorry for what I did. I am begging you (the judge) for mercy.
She wept periodically and at one stage it became difficult to understand what she was trying to say to the court.
In arriving at a sentence for Baird, Justice Singh took into consideration her early guilty plea, which he said, saved the state’s resources and the court from having to conduct a trial.
Justice Singh told Baird that he believes she was sorry for her actions and that she is now better able to control herself.
Before the hearing concluded, Justice Singh advised Baird to make the most of anger management classes if any are available to her during her time of incarceration.
The judge informed Baird that the Prison Authority will be ordered to deduct from her sentence the time she spent on remand pending trial. The judge also told her that he believes she can become eligible for parole depending on her behaviour while incarcerated.
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