National News

Couple wants murder sentence overturned

By Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - A Toronto-area couple who killed the man's 10-year-old son after months of abuse that involved chaining the boy to his bed wants its second-degree murder conviction overturned.

Garfield Boothe and Nichelle Boothe-Rowe, both found guilty in April in the death of Shakeil Boothe, have each filed a notice of appeal.

In her notice, Boothe-Rowe says she is appealing on the grounds that "the judge erred in charging the jury and as a result, the verdict/conviction was unreasonable."

Boothe, meanwhile, lists among the grounds of appeal that Ontario Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson refused to try him and his wife separately.

He also writes that Dawson refused to declare a mistrial "based on conduct of co-accused" and argues that the cross-examination he endured from his wife's lawyer was "unfair."

During trial, the couple blamed each other for Shakeil's death, but Dawson said in his decision Shakeil's father delivered the brutal beating that pushed the frail, sickly boy over the edge in May 2011.

While both Boothe and Boothe-Rowe betrayed Shakeil and contributed to his death, the father was "more involved,'' the judge said at the pair's June sentencing, noting Boothe admitted on the stand that he regularly hit his son.

The boy's stepmother was nonetheless "a partner in the abuse and neglect of Shakeil" even though there was no evidence she struck him, save for one incident in the fall of 2010, he said.

The conviction comes with an automatic life sentence. Boothe-Rowe has no chance of parole for 13 years; her husband will be ineligible for parole for 18 years, though he can apply for a reduction after 15.

Both have been in custody since their arrest in May 2011 and that time will count toward their sentences.

Shakeil came from Jamaica to live with his father in Brampton, Ont., in 2009. He was found dead in his bed on May 27, 2011, but evidence heard at trial suggests he died a day earlier.

The pathologist who examined Shakeil's body found that while his death was triggered by a severe beating, the boy was already in a downward spiral due to malnutrition and a severe infection that saw pus forming in his lungs.

The notices of appeal were filed in June and secure the couple's right to file a full appeal.

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