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Brian-Paul Welsh | Wrongs of the righteous

Published:Monday | September 19, 2016 | 9:00 AM

With hands clasped tightly and lips furiously sputtering magical incantations, the women gathered at the gates begging the gods to smite the unrighteous for their latest attempt at sullying their pious prophet.

Such was the scene outside the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court last week as the power of the Almighty was invoked to protect his anointed, the Reverend Merrick 'Al' Miller, from criminal conviction for what was then perceived, now affirmed, as his attempt to pervert the course of justice after he was caught driving Christopher 'Dudus' Coke to the US Embassy in 2010.

Legal language can be somewhat mechanical - which makes it difficult for many people to interpret the spirit in which it is intended - and so when I first heard that Al Miller would be charged, I had a subconscious fear that the inclusion of the word 'pervert' would cause some offence to the defendant, but in this case, the term is only being used in reference to the pastor's insurrection.

 

Critical thinking and analysis

 

Law is, in fact, a language and system of logic that requires critical thinking in order to comprehend the terms that are used and how they are assembled to form layers of meaning.

So, understanding the charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice similarly requires critical thinking and analysis.

Below are the basic limbs for this reasoning:

Google says 'pervert', as a verb, means to alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.

The most pedestrian definition I could find says: 'perverting the course of justice is an offence committed when a person prevents justice from being served on him/herself or on another party.'

Further lazy reading reveals that 'attempt', as defined in criminal law, is an offence that occurs when a person with an intention to commit a criminal act comes close, but does not, in fact, commit it. The law distinguishes between acts that were merely preparatory and those sufficiently connected to the crime.

Google also says that in Jamaica, the Criminal Justice Administration Act makes it an offence for anyone to obstruct, prevent, pervert, or defeat the course of public justice.

 

Why the reverend was charged

 

Applying these basic ideas to the circumstances as we know them, the reverend was charged (and later convicted) for taking steps to change the course of the justice system by evading police capture in order to carry out his intention to transport Jamaica's most wanted man to a foreign embassy.

The State was not frivolously accusing the reverend of being a pervert because he was caught in a liaison with a middle-age transvestite while the country was under a state of emergency. He was actually charged and convicted of an act of criminal corruption when he made an attempt to use the protection of his notary public status to circumnavigate Jamaica's justice system for the benefit of its most wanted fugitive.

In deciphering the tongues-speaking on the nightly news ever since Miller's conviction, we have seen where some of his flock have already intimated that this is another sign of Jamaica's moral decay and have expressed shock that an upstanding citizen innocently trafficking a fugitive for safe delivery outside of his native jurisdiction could ever be charged with a crime in this country. Heaven forbid! What has Jamaica come to?!

The way some talk when overcome by the spirits, you'd think they honestly believe Al Miller deserves a medal or national honour for driving Miss Daisy. Others are now preening for a share in the spotlight, shedding crocodile tears for the cameras while reminiscing about missed opportunities for sedition.

Al Miller was himself the picture of dejection, seemingly bewildered that his prayers were unanswered, and we all know his penchant for redirecting hurricanes.

The wonderful wizard in his tabernacle might have lost some of his sheen now that he has two strikes against him, but it also seems he might have already been exonerated in the court of public opinion. For similar to his precious cargo, in whose name damsels and fair maidens prostrated themselves in the streets, Reverend Al Miller's moral integrity has been washed white as snow, and his celebrity hoisted high on the wings of angels.

This because the convict clergyman is now seen by parishioners and fellow men of the cloth as a victim of his own success, a paragon of virtue in a rotten system, and a saint among sinners for his purported role in bringing to an end the bloodshed that was precipitated by half a century of corruption.

But in this case, as in all others, can the end truly justify the means?

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @islandcynic.