Prosecution demands on appeal again 8 years for Middle Region stabbing

POSTED: 02/27/14 12:54 PM

St. Maarten – Solicitor-General Taco Stein asked the Common Court of Justice yesterday to confirm the 8-year prison sentence for Shanieska Brooks who stabbed Kimberly Illidge to death on March 23 in Middle Region. The prosecution asked the court to overturn the acquittal of the lower court for Eric Johnson, who provided the knife Brooks used, and to sentence him to a 5-year conditional sentence with 2 year of probation for complicity. The court will pronounce its ruling on Wednesday March 19, at 1.45 p.m.

The president of the court, Judge M.C.B. Hubben went over the dossier in great detail with the defendants. The court had planned 1.5 hour to handle the case but in the end it took up the whole afternoon until well after five o’clock to conclude the proceedings.

Shanieska Brooks, who will turn 18 on March 8, maintained to the court that she did not mean the killing to happen. “I was sentenced for having had the intention to kill, but that is not so,” she said.

Asked why she had sent angry and seemingly threatening BB-messages on the fatal day, Brooks said that she had sent them “out of anger, but not with the intention to kill.”

The girl told the court that she had accepted the knife Eric Johnson provided to her to defend herself. To the police she said last year: “Kimberly is bigger, she wants to fight me and I have seen a golf club.”

The defendant also said that she had called home numerous times for someone to come and pick her up but that all her calls went unanswered. “MY father had 26 missed calls from me on his phone,” she said, adding again that she had had no intention to get into a fight.

Judge Hubben: “You knew people were waiting to see a fight, you held the knife behind your back and you walked towards Kimberly’s house. Those facts are difficult to square with someone who does not want to fight.”

In one of her text messages sent to friends, Brooks wrote “it is she or me”  – but that was written in anger, she told the court yesterday. “You told the police: I am not going to back down, the judge reminded her, before quoting from six BB-messages sent after the stabbing like, “Yo, I killed Kimberly” and “I going up to point now” (meaning that she was heading for Pointe Blanche). “First it was anger,” Brooks said, “Afterwards I just could not believe what had happened.”

The defendant also pointed out that there were adults around at the time of the fatal fight and that none of them intervened. Brooks stabbed her victim thoroughly, because she plunged the whole length of the 14-centimeter blade in her body, after which the heft broke off.

Eric Johnson told the court that he thought Shanieska would scare her adversary with the knife. “I gave her the knife because I did not want anything to happen to her,” he said.

A psychiatric report of the young female defendant shows that – fitting for her age – she is prepared to take risks, and that she acts on emotions. “The report also states that you find it terrible that Kimberly is no longer alive,” the judge said.

Brooks was a good student but she left school at the age of 14 and never went back. She wanted to continue her studies but according to the court, her mother stood in the way. “Every morning when I wake up I relive what happened,” Brooks said.

The psychiatrists noted that Eric Johnson is “not good in solving problems in an acute situation.”

Solicitor-General Stein referred to the evidence the Court in first Instance used to convict Brooks. He noted that the defendant could have made a different choice that evening. Instead of walking past the victim’s house, she could have opted not to go home, or to wait. “And why carry a knife if you think everything is quiet and Kimberly is inside her house?”

The defendant’s claim that she had “waved” with the knife after the victim attacked her cannot be correct, Stein said. “The whole blade was in the body. That has to be the result of a stabbing movement.”

Stein furthermore said that Brooks had sought the confrontation with her victim and that both girls had been at odds with each other for quite some time before the stabbing. The solicitor-general considered murder proven and asked the court to confirm the sentence of the court in first Instance – 8 years in jail.

Stein said his office disagrees with the acquittal for Johnson quoting the following statement from the defendant: “I knew she wanted to fight, but I did not know she was going to kill her.” It is not plausible that he gave the knife exclusively for self-defense, Stein said. He furthermore noted, based in witness statements, that Johnson had encouraged brooks to fight and that he had pushed her in the direction of her victim. “He intentionally provided the knife and he did not interfere in the fight,” the solicitor-general concluded. He demanded a 5-year conditional sentence for Johnson, with 2 years of probation.

Attorney Shaira Bommel objected to the application of adult criminal law to her client, who had just turned 17 at the time of the stabbing last year. “She is in a critical period of her life. She is unstable and needs a lot of support. She does not behave like a typical adult. Bommel asked the court for a youth measure instead of a lengthy prison sentence.

Bommel told the court that her client has been involved in incidents with adult female inmates in Pointe Blanche. “It is not allowed to lock up minors below the age of 18 with adults,” she said.

As for the facts, Bommel said that the dossier does  not contain proof that her client intentionally sought the confrontation with her victim. “She acted out of fear and anger.”

Attorney Geert Hatzmann persisted with the arguments he brought before the Court in first Instance that resulted in the acquittal for his client. He contested the solicitor-general’s view on Johnson’s role in the fight, pointing to the lack of impartiality among most of the witnesses. “Only the neighbor has no emotional attachment to the victim or to my client, and he said that my client attempted to separate the girls.”

Hatzmann also pointed out that co-defendant Brooks was not the aggressor. “And my client gave the knife way before the fight to Brooks. The moment to choose for using the knife is with Brooks, not with my client.”

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