Oneal Griffith, captain of La Grange’s West Bank Demerara boat on Wednesday, was 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 arrest, he pleaded not guilty to the murder indictment.
He was represented by Attorney-in-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 in Puruni, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) where he worked. After killing the miner, Griffith escaped with a quantity of raw gold, a boat, and an engine.
The murderer was soon captured in Itaballi, Region Seven. It was reported that the stolen vessel was found in possession of the raw gold. He was positively identified by a worker at the mining camp.
After deliberating for just over two hours, the 12-member mixed jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. Despite the verdict, Griffith proved his innocence. When given the opportunity to address the court, the convicted murderer accused the prosecution witnesses of lying about him.
“… I’m a boat captain, I was on the landing the night this event took place. I’m an innocent man. I don’t know anything about this charge. I am only telling the truth that I am innocent. There is no evidence to say that I am guilty; they lie all the time. God sees and knows everything, ”he shouted.
For his part, Mohabir, in mitigation, asked the court to temper justice with mercy. He said his client was a first-time offender. The Lyken prosecutor, on the other hand, urged the court to consider the serious nature of the offense and the fact that a deadly weapon had been used in the commission 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 common crime in Guyana.”
Noting that Griffith’s solicitor said his client was a criminal for the first time, Justice Singh added, “First, he chooses a big one to start with. It might have been the first time he was caught, or the first time [it] in a robbery. ”
“This person should never see the light of day,” the judge declared as he described the killing as a “heinous crime.” The judge started the sentence on a 60-year basis and was sentenced to a further 15 years for aggravating factors including use of a deadly weapon.
In the end, the murderer was sentenced to 75 years imprisonment. The judge ordered the jail authority 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 at least 50 years in prison.