…she failed to love, protect, comfort them – State ProsecutorBy Shemuel FanfairTwenty-five-year-old Hofoswana Awena Rutherford, who was recently found guilty of killing her two children by poisoning them with carbon tablets, was on Monday sentenced by Justice Navindra Singh to 98 years’ imprisonment on two counts of manslaughter.Hofoswana Awena Rutherford, who was convicted for poisoning her two children being escorted by Prison officers on Monday (Carl Croker photo)On the first count, killing of four-year-old Hodascia Codogan, Rutherford was sentenced to 45 years’ jail; while on the second count, killing of one-year-old Jabari Codogan, she was ordered to serve 53 years’ jail time.Rutherford had crashed to the floor when the 12-member jury unanimously found her guilty on both counts on March 15, 2018. The jury believed the State’s evidence that the mother had given each of her children half of a tablet of aluminium phosphide (rat poison) on March 27, 2014 at Supply Branch Road, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara. Aluminium phosphide tablets (rat poison).During Monday’s sentencing, a probation report was admitted into evidence but was not read in court. Drawing from this document, Rutherford’s attorney, Adrian Thompson, in his plea of mitigation before a packed courtroom of relatives and several other onlookers, detailed that his client had a “hard life”.Thompson stressed that Rutherford dropped out of school at 16, her mother died when she was young, and that she knew her father only later in life. The defence lawyer, pleading for the judge to temper justice with mercy, pointed out that his client was not in the best of mental health. However, Thompson admitted that he had no doctor’s report to attest to his client’s mental state.In contrast to his calls, State Prosecutor Abigail Gibbs stressed that Rutherford knew exactly what she was doing. In her address to the court, she told Justice Singh that a hard life and economic struggles can never justify taking the life of another, especially those of one’s own children.“She was the one who needed to protect them, comfort them, and show them love. However, she failed them,” the Prosecutor pointedly stated.On those grounds, Gibbs called for the maximum penalty to be leveraged for the killings of Jabari and Hodacia Codogan. This prompted light gasps from some persons in the gallery, but the court marshall swiftly turned and ordered silence.Rutherford, who stared at Justice Singh directly, begged him for mercy before later losing her composure with streams of tears. Unlike the dramatic events when she hit her head by falling last month, she stood tall in her cries.“No one in this world loves my children more than I do. I love them to my soul. I am sorry for my shortcomings and my faults,” she told the court.She then turned to her family members in court and expressed hope that they would be able to overcome the pain of losing Jabari and Hodacia Codogan.“Justice Singh, even God in Heaven above is merciful, and I am asking you to grant me a second chance so I can make things right,” Rutherford lamented.Justice Singh seemed perplexed as to why the State had indicted the mother on manslaughter, contending that “everything points to murder”. On the first count, he started the sentence at a base of 30 years, added 10 years for the victim being a child, five years for the victim being her child, five years for her using a poisonous substance, and another 10 years for premeditation.He, however, deducted eight years for what was listed in the probation report, and another seven years for Rutherford’s show of remorse. This computation resulted in a sentence of 45 years. Using similar facts, he calculated 53 years for count two, ordering that the sentences must be served consecutively.This means that the court’s cumulative sentence is 98 years. However, the Prison Service was ordered to deduct the time Rutherford had spent awaiting trial.During her trial at the Demerara High Court, Rutherford’s initial story was that she had bought cold tablets from a man at the Plaisance Park, who sells rat poison. However, the logic behind this story was not accepted by the jury.Rutherford had been hospitalised for seven days after the poisoning of her offsprings, and she had said she had drunk two tablets after giving same to them.Prosecutor Shawnette Austin also appeared for the State.