'Bigger than INDECOM'
US attorney calls for Ja Gov't to take on Mario Deane case
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
A WELL-KNOWN United States civil-rights attorney who is part of the legal team representing the family of Mario Deane is contending that the issues surrounding his death are "bigger than the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM)" and has, therefore, suggested that Jamaican Government step in now and ensure that there is fairness in the probe.
Warning that a number of international civil-rights leaders are lined up to announce their support for Deane's family "in short order", Jasmine Rand insisted that the Government "has a direct responsibility to step into an action of this magnitude".
"Specifically, overseeing the investigation to ensure that evidence is not covered up, to ensure that evidence does not go missing, [and] to ensure that witnesses are not being intimidated," Rand told The Gleaner after a press conference at the Duke Street, Kingston, office of attorney-at-law Bert Samuels yesterday.
However, Justice Minister Mark Golding has baulked at the suggestion, arguing that such a move would amount to an "unwarranted intrusion into the independent investigatorial" function of INDECOM.
Golding emphasised that based on Jamaica's governance structure, INDECOM was the agency "staffed, resourced and mandated" by Parliament to carry out this task.
"The Ministry of Justice is not set up to undertake investigations or deal with evidence in such matters ... . We don't have any expertise to do that," he told The Gleaner last night.
It was a position shared by top Jamaican attorney Ian Wilkinson, who argued that INDECOM must be allowed to do its job.
"State agencies like INDECOM must be allowed to do their work and be given the necessary resources to carry out these functions," said Wilkinson, noting that he was giving his personal views.
However, Rand, who is also part of the legal team for the family of Michael Brown - the unarmed black teen shot to death by a white police officer in the US state of Missouri — argued that a lot of the issues concerning Deane's death are "above INDECOM."
"So whoever is above INDECOM, it's their responsibility to step in at this point and ensure that the process is fair," she said.
Rand, who was also part of the legal team that represented the family of Trayvon Martin - the unarmed teen shot and killed by a neighbourhood watchman in Florida - urged INDECOM to ensure that its probe of Deane's death is fair and impartial. "Shed truth and light to the circumstances surrounding the death of Mario Deane and bring some justice not only to this family, but to the citizens of Jamaica who have too long suffered from police corruption and police brutality," she insisted.
She said whether or not police personnel participated in the beating of Deane, nobody could convince her that "no member of law enforcement in that jail did not hear his screams, which I'm told lasted about 30 minutes".
Rand disclosed that she was already in discussions with civil-rights leaders from several nations, even some in Africa, who have signalled their intention to stand with the people of Jamaica. This, "to send a message to the world that international cooperation and international collective action has the ability to uphold human rights," she said.
World-renowned pathologist Dr Michael Baden is scheduled to conduct an independent autopsy on Deane's body today, and Rand says this was part of the resources she would bring to the issue.
She said her decision to offer her services free of charge to the Deane family was her way of giving back to Jamaica.
"I am not here to come and help Jamaica, I am here because Jamaica helped me and helped the Trayvon Martin family when we needed the support of the international community," she told journalists during the news conference.
Making numerous references to National Hero Marcus Garvey and Jamaican reggae superstar Bob Marley, the American civil-rights attorney made it clear she was not here to "teach anything new or show anybody anything new".
"I am here because Jamaica taught me. I'm here because a part of my voice was informed by Jamaican leaders, because my voice was strengthened by the Jamaican community when so many Jamaicans stood up and said 'I am Trayvon'," she said.
Deane died three days after he was viciously beaten while in custody at the Barnett Street Police Station, on Independence Day. Two men have been charged with murder.