Sun | Dec 4, 2016

witness breaks down on emotional day at enquiry

Published:Friday | December 12, 2014 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Rudolph Brown/Photographer Sir David Simmons, Commission chairman at enquiry, being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, Downtown, Kingston.

Day nine of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry elicited more emotionally charged evidence of alleged atrocities by members of the security forces during the 2010 Tivoli Gardens incursion, causing one witness to break down in tears and an appeal for sensitivity by the chairman of the three-man panel.

Roselyn Newton, one of the three witnesses who testified yesterday, recounted that at one point during the 2010 police-military operations, she watched a policeman take her then 20-year-old nephew, Lundi Murphy, down a pathway behind a wall and that moments later she heard gunshots.

"Then I saw fire come out of the gun," she told the enquiry.

The woman, who is more affectionately known as 'Cherry', later buried her head in a rag and sobbed as she related how a soldier grabbed her by her neck and "kick weh mi foot dem", causing her to fall and hurt her knees as she tried to use her body to block another soldier from shooting three family members.

The hearing was halted for about 10 minutes after the 41-year-old hairdresser broke down in tears when attorney-at-law Michael Lorne, who represents the public defender's office, sought to have her repeat her testimony of being manhandled by the soldier.

On resumption, Linton Gordon, one of the attorneys for the Jamaica Defence Force, appealed to his colleague to show some sensitivity to the ordeal of witnesses.

"It's an act of oppression and insensitivity for any other counsel to ask her to recite those [allegations]. There is no need for anyone to jump on those and have the witness saying them over and over until the witness becomes emotional and you are the centre of attention," Gordon said.

Commission Chairman Sir David Simmons underscored the necessity and the importance of the enquiry, but agreed with Gordon on the need for sensitivity towards witnesses.

He reiterated that some west Kingston residents were still psychologically scarred from their experiences and were finding it "unpalatable" to relive them.

"Let us just remember that for some of these witnesses, especially those who have lost relatives, this is a harrowing experience that we are putting them through," Simmons said, even as he acknowledged the right of attorneys to ask questions.

"But Mr Gordon is right, and each one of us must remember that we must be sensitive to the sensibilities of these witnesses," he continued.

HAD TO LIE IN MUD

Relating her ordeal, Newton testified that she, her common-law husband, her son and Murphy were made to lay face down in mud and saw a soldier kick Murphy.

"A just see blood a run through his mouth and nose and he was crying," she said.

She said she saw a policeman say something to Murphy before inspecting him and leading him to Kirkpatrick Pathway.

"Lundi kept walking until I couldn't see him anymore, and afterwards, I see the policeman pointed him long gun in the direction where Lundi [was] [was] walking," she said.

"Why I say is the police kill ma nephew is [because] pure fire [was] coming out of his gun [in] the direction where Lundi [was] walking," she said.

Newton conceded that she did not see her nephew get shot, and said she never saw him again until she attended his funeral several weeks later.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com