Electric guitar murderer has minimum sentence reduced
One of two brothers who admitted the "frenzied" murder of a man battered with an electric guitar is to have his minimum jail sentence cut by two years, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Senior judges reduced James Turner's tariff period to 15 years after identifying no evidence that he was involved in stamping on Matthew Goddard's head.
But they rejected claims that the same 17-year prison term handed down to William Turner was excessive.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "Such a frenzied and vicious attack clearly indicated at the very least indifference as to whether or not the deceased lived."
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.
An electric guitar was used as a weapon, being smashed over his head with such ferocity that it splintered into pieces.
His face was also stamped on for having allegedly insulted the younger brother by describing him as "a sandwich short of a picnic".
During the assault, 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 attack was launched.
Appealing the sentences handed down, defence lawyers claimed the trial judge had got it wrong.
Counsel for William Turner contended that insufficient credit was given for his early admissions during police interviews.
Refusing his appeal, however, Sir Declan held that appropriate discount was given for a defendant who then pleaded not guilty on arraignment - providing little comfort to victims.
James Turner's lawyers argued that the sentencing process failed to either separate the brothers' roles or take into account his non-involvement in the earlier barroom assault.
Sir Declan ruled there must be some differentiation with William Turner, who also accepted causing grievous bodily harm over that incident.
Based on a lack of forensic evidence connecting James Turner, he added: "We also accept that the learned trial judge did not have a basis for the conclusion that each brother stamped in turn upon the deceased."
But the Lord Chief Justice insisted the involvement of both men in the "horrendous attack" could not be ignored.
"It is apparent, therefore that the appellant (James Turner) was still trying to minimise his role and shift the blame onto others even after he had pleaded guilty," he said.
"That inevitably reduces the discount they can be allowed for the plea.
"Taken together with the fact that there was no admission at interview, we consider that the appropriate tariff in his case is 15 years."
Belfast Telegraph Digital