Glenn Tucker | No justice for Khajeel Mais
"Laws are like spider's webs which, if anything small falls into them, they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape." Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Solon, 3rd Century AD
Events over the past week were dominated by what has become known as the X6 killer trial. Five years ago, a schoolboy was killed by a bullet to his head while he was in a taxi that had just hit an expensive vehicle.
The trial was over in five days and the alleged killer found not guilty. The reason given for this verdict was that the critical witness had changed his testimony. And that's that.
Long before this matter came to trial, many had predicted this outcome. And the police - busy as they are - seemed to have missed all the useful clues that were on everybody's lips. In spite of this accurate prediction of the outcome, the nation erupted with anger at the verdict.
There is a claim that we only express outrage for a few days, then we forget the incident. This is not quite true. We stop talking but - unbeknown to us, even - there is a silent, subliminal deposit to that deepening sense of cynicism that lies dormant before it becomes dangerous.
Napoleon I of France is remembered by most as a military genius. But his genius extended well beyond the battlefield. He is responsible for the Napoleonic Code, which has influenced legal systems in more than 70 countries. Indeed, that code is regarded as one of the few documents that has influenced the whole world.
Napoleon had a growing concern that his countrymen were forgetting the concerns that sparked the revolution just over two decades before. So concerned was he that he summoned the members of the Council of State on March 12, 1803 - a Saturday - and among the warnings he gave were these words: Il ne suffit pas pour etre juste de faire le bien, il faut encore que les administres soient convaicus. Roughly translated, that means: "To be just is not simply doing right, the governed must be convinced that it is right."
There is a deep cynicism among our people that is now firmly baked into the national psyche. It stems from the conviction that justice is for 'other people' and determined by colour, car, castle and cash. As little as possible of the first, and the others in abundance. Whenever these travesties occur, and we get restive, legal luminaries are put on the airwaves. They use obfuscatory lingo in which anything seems to mean everything or maybe nothing if that is what is required. And that's that.
I would like to look at this event through the eyes of an ordinary Jamaican - not initiated in law or logic.
According to the mother of the deceased child, she took him to a taxi stand. The driver of the taxi he took lived in his neighbourhood and knew his family.
The driver claims that the taxi hit a car and shortly, thereafter, bullets were fired into the cab and one hit this child in his head. He drove to the Constant Spring Police Station where the police decided to drive the child to hospital. They passed Andrews Memorial and Medical Associates hospitals - two of the best hospitals we have and journeyed all the way across town to the Kingston Public Hospital - the most overcrowded and understaffed hospital we have. Not surprisingly, the child died.
According to the DPP, the taxi driver gave a statement in which he claimed he saw nothing that could be helpful. On another occasion, he returned to the police station to say that the first statement was not truthful and he gave a second statement claiming that he knew the shooter and his family and gave details to substantiate his claims.
Because of the circumstances of the case, the alleged killer's gun was critical to the investigation. The request by the police for the firearm was denied.
Five years later, the trial starts, The taxi driver takes the oath, takes the stand and denies that he ever gave a second statement, denies that he knows the accused or the dead boy's family, accuses the police of lying, the accused is set free, and everybody goes home. And that's that!!
This, unfortunately, is the outcome the society has come to expect in matters concerning certain persons in this society. Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has been making some positive noises. And none but the architects of mischief would expect this new government to reverse this generations-old problem in a few months. Nor should we be so hard on previous regimes.
Generations ago, neo-colonialists using aliases like International Monetary Fund and World Bank held the government in a chokehold and force-fed a fundamentally flawed development system. The real objective was to collect debts we could not repay and, using the sophisticated tool of devaluation, buy our goods as cheaply as possible.
For years politicians have been stepping over the wretched, broken bodies of our homeless brothers and sisters at Justice Square (don't laugh) on their way to Gorgon House to proudly announce that they have 'passed' an IMF 'test'. With the 'passing' of each test comes a more severe impoverishment of the nation as critical programmes in education, health and security have to be reduced to bare bones in order to pay these debts.
Those are easy to see. But what is less visible are losses to the foundations of our democracy. Justice is one of the main casualties we don't immediately recognise.
More than 40 years ago, I worked at the Family Court. I was shocked to observe that the judge had a pen in her hand recording, long hand, the details of each case. That unbelievably inefficient waste of time continues today and typifies the present justice arrangements. It is virtually impossible to deal with the backlog of cases that are awaiting trial.
Witnesses are dead or gone away. Victims have given up, as they have no more money for legal fees. Others have chosen more direct and violent means of settling grievances, as dons have proven to be far more effective than the country's justice and security arrangements. Justice after five years is no longer justice.
So we end up with what we see last week. The key witness can tell the police one thing and the court another under oath. Either he is lying to the police or the court. But there are no consequences. This is a gun crime and the alleged killer has a gun. But he has failed to hand it over, and there are no consequences.
How is this system of laws helping us? Because if the law cannot punish certain groups in our society, it cannot persuade persons in those groups to respect the law. That is why Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Abbe Arnold, on May 27, 1789, said, in part, "The execution of the law is more important than the making of them"
The vulnerable in the society are growing at an alarming rate. From Agana Barrett to Armadale to the hapless, hopeless children of dead and incarcerated parents to the elderly poor and the mentally challenged. One would have to be haughty and contemptuous of history to ignore the explosive consequences that face our nation if we ignore the welfare of the weakest.
We cannot continue to hand out not-guilty verdicts for these egregious crimes. For if no one is guilty, everyone is responsible.
- Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and glenntucker2011 @gmail.com.