Thursday, May 8, 2003
Sailor’s deal angers relative of slain women
The brother/son of the victims is upset that their killer avoids the death penalty
By Gregg K. Kakesako
A Singapore man whose sister and mother were killed last summer by a Pearl Harbor sailor is outraged by a plea agreement that limits the admitted killer’s jail time to 30 years.
Kasti Ahmad told the Star-Bulletin by e-mail yesterday that his family was never consulted about the agreement Navy prosecutors made with Petty Officer 2nd Class David DeArmond.
The agreement allowed DeArmond to escape a possible death sentence for killing his wife, Zaleha DeArmond, and his mother-in-law, Saniah Binte Abdul Ghani.
“I am outraged at the plea agreement and the extremely short time that the deal was made without even informing me,” said Ahmad. “Getting a conviction without the usual sentence is a total sellout. I think this is a deal of convenience to shorten the process and to protect other negligent circumstances that led to the death.”
Ahmad added that such a deal would have never happened in Singapore, where his sister, Zaleha DeArmond, and their mother, Abdul Ghani, are from and which is known for its strict judicial system.
DeArmond, 33, a 14-year Navy veteran, agreed to plead guilty to the murder of his mother-in-law and the voluntary manslaughter of his wife.
The plea agreement was accepted Monday by Navy Capt. Michael Hinkley, the military judge presiding over DeArmond’s court-martial. The murder conviction has a maximum sentence of life, while a maximum sentence for manslaughter is 15 years.
However, Lt. Cmdr. James Lucci, the Navy’s lead prosecutor, told Ahmad in an e-mail dated Saturday that the plea agreement limits the maximum prison time to 30 years.
Lucci said in the e-mail: “This agreement is very advantageous for us, the government as well as the defense. We are now guaranteed a conviction for murder, which removes the uncertainty and chance associated with any contested trial.”
It also meant that DeArmond would not face the death penalty, which is not allowed under state law but is permissible in the military.
However, Lucci acknowledged that DeArmond could spend less time in jail because he still has to be sentenced by a jury of at least five sailors and officers.
That will take place during the first week in June.
“Although HT2 (hull technician 2nd class) DeArmond has signed an agreement to limit his sentence to 30 years,” Lucci said, “the military court may sentence him to a shorter or longer sentence.”
However, under the plea agreement, the military judge would have to set aside any prison time longer than 30 years.
Lucci recommended that Ahmad and his family attend the June session to say how “the loss has affected them.” Ahmad said he plans to attend. He also said custody of his sister’s three children should be granted to his family. The children are in a foster home.
Zaleha DeArmond and her mother were killed on the second floor of her townhouse in the early morning hours of June 10 during a domestic argument.
Forensic evidence presented during pretrial hearings disclosed David DeArmond hit his wife about four or five times with an iron skillet.
His mother-in-law tried to stop the argument by attacking DeArmond with a steak knife, which he took away from her and used to stab her 10 times.