Brothers' jail sentences for murder of man with electric guitar 'excessive', court of appeal hears
Jail sentences imposed on two brothers for the "frenzied" murder of a man battered with an electric guitar were excessive, the Court of Appeal heard on Monday.
Lawyers for William and James Turner argued that the minimum 17-year prison terms handed down following the attack on Matthew Goddard should be reduced.
Mr Goddard's body was discovered at his home in Chobham Street, east Belfast on Christmas Eve 2014.
The 41-year-old victim had been beaten, punched and kicked repeatedly.
His head was also stamped on for having allegedly insulted the younger brother by describing him as "a sandwich short of a picnic".
During the fatal attack, which lasted around 10 minutes, the killers were said to have made him crawl and apologise for the remark.
Belfast men William Turner, 38, from Glenlea Grove, and James Turner, 31, of Dunraven Court, both pleaded guilty to the murder.
Prior to the killing they had been binging on drink and drugs.
While socialising in the King Richard pub William Turner gouged and blinded another man in the eye in a fight over a game of pool.
He claimed that his intention was then to give Mr Goddard "a good slap" for the remarks about his brother.
But after entering the victim's home a deadly assault was launched.
Appealing the sentences, defence lawyers claimed the trial judge had got it wrong.
Eugene Grant QC, representing William Turner, contended that insufficient credit was given for his client's early admissions during police interviews.
"William Turner accepts he used his fists, his feet and an electric guitar during what appears to have been a frenzied attack," Mr Grant said.
"He described his behaviour as a complete loss of control, and indicated that Matt didn't deserve to die for what he said."
Counsel for James Turner, Patrick Lyttle QC, acknowledged it had been "a brutal and savage attack", but stressed that the victim was still alive when the brothers left.
He accepted that the pair may have been indifferent about whether Mr Goddard lived or died.
However, the barrister argued that they did not go to the house with the intention to kill.
Mr Lyttle also claimed the sentencing process failed to either separate the brothers' roles or take into account James Turner's non-involvement in the earlier barroom grievous bodily harm.
"There are significant reasons why there should be a distinction between this applicant and his brother," he added.
Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, countered that the trial judge was entitled to conclude both men were set on murder.
"When one has regard to the nature of the injuries, photographs of the scene and the state they left Mr Goddard in, their intention was to kill," he said.
Reserving judgment in the appeal against sentence, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pledged to give a decision as soon as possible.