VIDEO: 'Ultimate betrayal'
Bunny' Francis's son slams man convicted of his dad's murderFriday, May 14, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Roderick “Ricky” Francis Jr yesterday described as the “ultimate betrayal” the actions of Carlos Batista who, despite being brought to Jamaica in the 1980s and offered a job by his father, Roderick “Bunny” Francis, was the same man who engineered the murder of the B&D Trawling Limited CEO.
“It's the ultimate betrayal knowing that this man here, whom I have known from I was a child, sat down with him day by day in the office up to the year before the murder,” Francis Jr told journalists outside the Supreme Court after Batista and fellow convict George Gardner were sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for the murder committed just under 10 years ago.
Bunny Francis was shot outside his Queensway, St Andrew, home on Saturday, June 25, 2011 by gunmen pretending to have car trouble, in a suspected contract killing. The police subsequently arrested Batista, Gardner, Sheldon Watson, and Newton Welsh, all of Kingston addresses, in connection with the murder.
However, at the start of the trial in October last year, the prosecution offered no evidence against Welsh, which resulted in the case against him being dismissed.
Later that month Watson changed his plea to guilty for the offence of accessory after the fact to murder and was sentenced on December 10 last year to two years' imprisonment suspended for three years with supervision.
Batista and Gardner were found guilty by Supreme Court Judge Justice Georgiana Fraser following an approximately eight-week trial in January this year. The prosecution, led by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, QC, offered evidence from 36 witnesses, including direct eyewitness testimonies of Francis's son and his wife. The prosecution also relied on scientific circumstantial evidence, including call data records (calls and text messages) and vehicular tracking evidence.
It was revealed that Batista — a citizen of the Dominican Republic, who was at one point employed by Francis before he left the company to work with a direct competitor known as DYC Fishing — plotted with Gardner and at least one other person to kill his former boss.
Yesterday, Francis Jr, in a victim impact statement read into the records of the court, said the murder which ended his father's life “threw a loving, closely knitted family and extended family into immediate and complete disarray”.
“His murder caused them mental trauma, grief, pain, and financial loss. Mr Carlos Batista, in particular, was especially well known to [my father and myself as it was my father] who brought Carlos to Jamaica to offer him employment. Carlos Batista does not deserve to see the light of day again if he can kill people who have helped him so much. He is the ultimate danger to civil society,” the younger Francis said.
Francis Jr, who had engaged the assailant who shot his father in a gun battle, said he and his wife — who was with him at the time — had been left traumatised and have had to undergo psychiatric counselling for over 10 years in order to sleep at night. He said he has taken to drinking excessively out of anxiety and fear for their personal security.
He said his sister, who had been visiting the family home from overseas at the time of the murder, is still haunted by the fact that she passed the vehicle used by the killers the morning without suspicion.
He said his brother, who was home with his own family at the time of the murder, rushed to the hospital only to find out that his father had died. He, too, has had to undergo counselling. Threats to his life led to him retrofitting his own home, the court was told.
Francis's wife of over 30 years — who, at the time of her husband's murder, was assistant secretary general and executive director of the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Switzerland — has since found it impossible to find full-time employment in any international organisation or national governments, the court heard.
Yesterday Batista, from his perch in the dock, ripped away his face mask and protested vehemently in his native Spanish at Francis Jr's reference to the fact that he had been brought to Jamaica by his father and subsequently left to work for a competitor with whom the elder Francis was later involved in a fierce legal battle which he subsequently won.
After being silenced by the judge, Batista sat still, stone-faced, his tear-reddened piercing eyes peering from under his heavy brows.
The DPP, speaking ahead of sentencing in her closing remarks, said it was clear that the murder was not only premeditated but planned and executed with military precision and akin to a contract murder, Batista being the ringmaster.
The statement caused Batista to shake his head from side to side vehemently.
Batista's lawyer, Deborah Martin, in her plea in mitigation said the time spent in custody by her client, from 2011 to 2015, had negatively impacted his family as he had been the breadwinner. She said the family had been forced to “drastically” re-scope their lives and habits and has “paid a price”.
She also pleaded for the judge to be mindful of the fact that Batista is diabetic and had suffered significant weight loss, being unable to access what was necessary for people in his condition in terms of dietary needs. Further, she said he suffered from a disability from a gun attack in 2018 in which his left hand was damaged. She said he was unable to access the necessary therapy from behind bars.
Attorney Pierre Rogers, in his plea in mitigation for Gardner, said his client was still young and, based on his social enquiry report, was not a danger to society or himself. He pleaded with the judge to, in deciding on the sentence, consider that his client “may have something left to contribute to society”.
However, Justice Fraser, in her summation, pointed out that neither Batista nor Gardner, who have maintained their innocence, have expressed remorse.
“Murder, to my mind, is the ultimate crime...there is no coming back from the dead in relation to the victim,” Justice Fraser said.
She said it was agreed that the killing of Francis was a gruesome event which would have no doubt been alarming and traumatic for the relatives.
“I do not see that there is any rehabilitation in the making...Mr Batista indicated remorse, but it was not remorse for the deceased or the family of the deceased, but rather for his family, friends and community,” she pointed out.
The judge, from a starting point of 30 years, added 10 years because of the aggravating factors which included, among other things, the fact that the convicted men were mature individuals and should have been able to reason. She also pointed to the circumstances which showed that the act was premeditated, noting that there must have been “a watching and careful planning”, in addition to the efforts to conceal evidence afterwards.
She however deducted three years for mitigating factors, taking the sentence to 37 years, which was further whittled down to 32 years and eights months, given the fact that they had already spent four years and four months in custody.
The two will not be eligible for parole before the expiry of that time, she ordered.
As the men stood to hear their fate, Gardner hung his head, while Batista kept his hands in pockets, his head averted, and he blinked fiercely.
The DPP, in a brief comment to the media yesterday, said “I commend the police investigators for an excellent investigation in what was a very technical and complex case”.
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