At this moment we are not able to get into the finer points of the court ruling that put the life sentence against Ridge Damisse, the rapper who fatally shot Police Officer Gamali Benjamin on August 5 of last year because the judge took her rulings with her back to Aruba without providing the local press judge with a copy.
So right now we’ll have to make do with a rather crude assessment of the court’s findings. In cases that are clad in such tragedy as the Oro Diamanté robbery there will never be any winners and there will hardly be anybody satisfied with whatever ruling the court has in store.
A beloved and sympathetic policeman had been killed by an angry young rapper whose only explanation for his actions was that one bad decision led to a bad situation. Anybody real close to Gamali Benjamin would want to see the shooter, Ridge Damisse, rot in jail for the rest of his life.
The 24-year-old has been contemplating his fate since the trial on April 13 when the prosecution demanded the ultimate punishment in our legal system: life imprisonment. His partner in crime, Jovanny Leon (the guy who came up with the idea for the armed robbery) heard a demand for 25 years in prison.
From an objective point of view – and we understand that those who are deeply emotionally involved in this case do not give a rat’s behind about objective point of view – Damisse does not deserve a life sentence. It simply does not add up: one armed robbery, one case of manslaughter, one case of attempted manslaughter and firearm possession.
We’re not the experts in case law here, but we figure that there are plenty of comparable cases where the verdict did not come anywhere near a life sentence.
There is however one important difference: the victim was a police officer. And yes: his death sent a real shockwave of anger across the island. But a life sentence? In our hearts, we never thought it would come to that.
The decision the court presented sent another shockwave and we are completely with all those who are disgusted by this verdict – inside and outside the police force, the prosecutor’s office and the circle of friends and family who miss Officer Benjamin so terribly.
If the prosecutor’s office says in a press release that it is disappointed in a verdict, you can be sure that the steam was coming out of the ears of all public prosecutors on Wednesday after they became aware of the rulings.
We figured Damisse would go down for, say, 30 years, maybe something like 28. But 20 years? If the killer behaves (and we don’t know that he will) he has to serve only two third of that sentence.
Source: Today SXM Opinion: A better outcome