Prosecutors on St. Maarten are considering an appeal to The Hague after an island appeals court this week decided to reduce the sentences for three men convicted in connection with the robbery and killings of a Mount Pleasant couple.
The Common Court of Justice's decision Monday to trim the trio's sentences followed a day-long appeals hearing Dec. 12 that functioned like a second trial, with the judges questioning the three suspects about their actions on the day Michael and Thelma King were killed.
Taco Stein, the island's solicitor general, said prosecutors are studying the court's decision to assess the possibilities for bringing the case before the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in The Hague. He gave no timetable for that process.
The reduction in sentences upset the Kings' relatives. Todd King, Michael King's brother, described the panel as "an out of control appeals court" that "truly has no regard to the safety of St. Maarten's people, their visitors or its economic welfare."
The man accused of slitting the couple's throats, 29-year-old Meyshane Johnson, had been sentenced to life in prison, but the appeals court reduced his sentence to 30 years, Stein said.
The court rejected allegations made by the defense of prosecutorial missteps in the case, and found the charges against Johnson to be "legally and convincingly proven," Stein said. Psychiatric and psychological testing also determined he was fully responsible for his actions, he said.
But in reducing his sentence, the court cited his young age, the short time span of the violence and the fact that Johnson had not been sentenced for earlier crimes on the island, Stein said.
Johnson's co-defendants, Jeremiah Chevon Mills, 18, and Jamal Jefferson Woolford, 21, also got reduced sentences after the appeals court acquitted them of some of the charges for which they had been convicted. Mills, who initially received 28 years behind bars, saw his sentence drop to 25 years. Woolford, initially sentenced to 22 years in prison, had his term reduced to 18 years.
The appeals court didn't find convincing proof that Woolford was involved in the murder of the Kings, as he had left the couple's home before the actual killing took place, Stein said. He was held responsible for his other involvement in the crime and for a robbery earlier in the evening at a Chinese restaurant, he said.
Mills was acquitted of participating in the murder of Thelma King, as the appeals court concluded that he too had left the home of the couple at the time she was murdered, Stein said.
Johnson, Mills and Woolford happened upon the Kings' Cupecoy villa on Sept. 19, 2012, and decided to rob them after committing another hold-up at a Chinese restaurant that same evening.
Prosecutors said Johnson cut Michael King's throat and stabbed him in the back and neck before cutting Thelma King's throat while she was helpless and bound with pieces of a shredded towel.
The suspects are believed to have escaped with about $80,000 in jewelry and cash, authorities said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.