RUSHON Hamilton, the ex-constable charged with murdering 14-year-old Jhaneel Goulbourne, was yesterday convicted by jurors who hung the weight of their verdict on the jailhouse confession of the 24-year-old man, who appeared stunned at the decision which could lead to a death penalty.
“We found him guilty based on what he had confessed,” a male juror told the Jamaica Observer after rendering the verdict in the Home Circuit Court.
“Once a man’s conscience is digging him then he will confess the truth, so I found him at that time to be guilty,” the juror added. “It wasn’t an easy choice to be made. But we had our discussions and looked through our notes and looked at what had taken place and realised that he was guilty.”
Other jurors also told the Observer that Hamilton’s confession to a cellmate at the Central Kingston Police Station, in 2008, of murdering Goulbourne at sea and dumping her body, was what influenced their decision.
The verdict comes a day after the fourth anniversary of Goulbourne’s abduction from her gate in Harbour View, St Andrew on October 24, 2008 by a gunman in a white Toyota van. Her body has not been found.
Her abduction followed the filing of a complaint that led to Hamilton being charged with carnal abuse. The prosecution told the jurors that Hamilton, who was a member of the police force at the time Goulburne was abducted, murdered the teen because he did not want her to give evidence against him in the carnal abuse case.
The jurors yesterday accepted the murder motive, opening up the way for the prosecution to ask for the death penalty when Hamilton is scheduled for sentencing on December 17. Senior prosecutor Lisa Palmer-Hamilton has already notified the defence of the Crown’s intent to ask for the death penalty.
A witness testified during the trial that Hamilton told him following daily devotion that he and other men took the teen out to sea where he shot her and dumped her body, weighted with cinder blocks, into the sea. According to the witness, Hamilton said the “pickney” begged him not to kill her, saying that she would not testify against him in the carnal abuse case.
Another accused police witness, who was in the same cell, testified to hearing Hamilton confessing to the crime on several occasions.
Yesterday’s verdict, which came at 2:55 pm, three hours after deliberations started, brought an end to the dramatic four-week trial and gave some form of closure to Jhaneel’s family.
In tears, Jhaneel’s older sisters Lisa and Colline Goulbourne expressed satisfaction with the verdict.
“It won’t be the same because [Jhaneel] is not with us, but it is out of the way,” Colline told the Observer.
Lisa said “it was really heartbreaking” sitting through the trial.
Earlier as the verdict was being read, both women broke into tears of joy and relief. And for the first time, Hamilton showed some signs of being ruffled.
Hamilton, his eyes red, sat staring at the jurors as the verdict was being read, and after the jurors left the room, he briefly hung his head, fiddled with his fingers and stared at his lawyers as if seeking consolation.
He had said during an unsworn statement from the prisoner’s dock that he was innocent and he was being set up.
Lead attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson, who appeared along with Peter Champagnie, told the Observer that the defence will be appealing the decision.
The defence is expected to argue against the death penalty.