By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN is to continue serving his 35-year sentence for murdering his 81-year-old mother four years ago, then recording a video and taking pictures of her bedroom floor instead of immediately calling for help.
The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed Jerome Butler’s appeal of his conviction and sentence for beating and choking Princess Butler to death in a home they shared in Highbury Park in February 2015.
According to the ruling, on February 3, 2015, Mrs Butler’s daughter Faith Butler-Cleare dropped her mother home from choir practice around 8pm. At that time, Mrs Butler-Cleare did not see any injuries on her mother, who she knew to be in good health.
Butler also saw his mother around 11.30 that same night before he retired to bed after securing the house he and his mother shared on Petersfield Road. He also said his mother appeared to be in good health at the time.
Around 6.30am the following day, Butler wakened and went into his mother’s bedroom, where he said he saw her on the floor with no signs of life or any obvious signs of injuries.
Butler did not call for help. Instead, he made a video and took photographs of his mother in the state she was in on the floor. Then he called his brother, who the appellate judges said was “slightly incapacitated” by being deaf, to see their mother. His brother lived next door.
It was only after Butler called his brother - and they both cried over their mother’s condition - that Butler called Mrs Butler-Cleare to inform her of their mother’s condition.
Butler never called police for help, according to the ruling. Instead medical help was sought only after Mrs Butler-Cleare arrived at the house. And it was after the ambulance had arrived and EMS personnel pronounced Mrs Butler dead that Dr Austin Davis, a physician and family friend, was called.
Dr Davis signed a death certificate stating she had died of natural causes.
However, an autopsy was performed and it was revealed Mrs Butler did not die of natural causes, but due to “probable asphyxia”.
Forensic pathologist Dr Caryn Sands, in giving evidence at the trial, said Mrs Butler suffered significant injuries to her neck consistent with force being applied by the hands of another person.
The post mortem report noted Mrs Butler also suffered blunt force trauma to the head and neck inclusive of multiple contusions and abrasions to her face. She also suffered a laceration of the mouth, and bleeding on her skull and over her brain, all of which occurred on or around the time she died and may have contributed to her death.
Butler stated that on the date in question, all of the doors were locked, none of the burglar bars had been tampered with and nobody else was in the house. His brother, who lived at the back of the property, did not have a key to the house, but would gain entry whenever someone opened the door for him.
Butler was consequently charged with the murder of his mother, pictured right, and stood trial for seven days before Justice Indra Charles. After three hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously found him guilty of his mother’s murder.
He was consequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, which was reduced to 33 years to reflect the time he spent awaiting trial.
Butler appealed his conviction and sentence, chiefly on the grounds that there was no certainty as to his mother’s cause of death and that Dr Sands could not say that unlawful harm was used.
Butler further asserted that the Crown produced no evidence to show he used unlawful harm on his mother, which would have caused her death. He further claimed that Dr Sands’ use of the word “probable” suggested she was uncertain about whether Mrs Butler in fact died from asphyxiation.
However, the appellate tribunal of Justices Stella Crane-Scott, Roy Jones and Sir Michael Barnett noted Dr Sands’ evidence that Mrs Butler sustained blunt force trauma to the neck suggesting the application of “unlawful force”, which the doctor said was one of the reasons “pointing to asphyxia as a cause of death.”
The appellate judges said that fact, combined with the fact that Butler was the only other person in the house with Mrs Butler who could have caused such an injury was a “sufficient basis” for Justice Charles to “decline to stop the case and sent it to the jury for a determination” of Butler’s guilt or innocence.
“Having regard to the nature of the evidence I have no doubt as to the safety of the conviction,” Sir Michael said with the agreement of his fellow justices. “A not-guilty verdict would have been perverse.”