Sun | Aug 20, 2017

'God's with me' - Powell walks as not-guilty verdict ordered in X6 trial

Published:Tuesday | October 25, 2016 | 10:15 AMLivern Barrett
Businessman Patrick Powell enters a BMW X5 motor vehicle after walking free from the Supreme Court yesterday.

Jamaica's Chief Prosecutor Paula Llewellyn yesterday confirmed that the main eyewitness in the so-called X6 murder trial, taxi driver Wayne Wright, gave testimony that was "clearly different" from the account he gave police investigators, but said she would not speculate on what influenced his action.

Speaking to reporters moments after the dramatic collapse of the trial, which has garnered high public interest, Llewellyn described Wright's testimony in the Home Circuit Court last week as sad and unfortunate, and suggested that he does some soul-searching.

"I will not speculate on why Mr Wright gave this evidence, which was clearly different from what was in his statement. All I will say is that it is very, very unfortunate, it was very sad and I can only hope that one of these days he will introspect and perhaps introspect for the better," she said.

"It would not be appropriate for me to speculate, certainly publicly, as to what could have motivated him," Llewellyn added, minutes after Justice Lloyd Hibbert directed a seven-member jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty in the trial of businessman Patrick Powell.

Powell was on trial for murder and shooting with intent arising from the death of 17-year-old Kingston College student Khajeel Mais on July 1, 2011 in Havendale, St Andrew.

Lead prosecutor Jeremy Taylor charged at the start of the trial that Mais was travelling in a taxi that hit a BMW X6, and that the driver of the luxury vehicle came out and fired several bullets into the car.

But following Wright's testimony last week, that he did not see anyone along Highland Drive after the shooting, and that he did not give police investigators details of the incident or a description of the shooter, Taylor called one additional witness yesterday - Deputy Superintendent Vernal Thompson - before deciding to bring an end to the trial.

"The Crown will be offering no further evidence against Mr Powell," Taylor told Hibbert, acknowledging that even with 16 more witnesses set to testify, he would havedifficulty placing Powell as the scene of the shooting.

"Even if we were to put up all the circumstantial evidence we would still need the identification to anchor the case," he explained, adding that only Wright could have given that evidence.

Following this, Hibbert told jurors that there is "no evidence which could satisfy you that you could feel sure that this accused man committed the offences for which he is charged".

"I will therefore direct you to return a verdict of not guilty," he continued.

Powell showed no emotion as the verdict was announced and told reporters, as he left court: "I am happy. God is with me."

Mais' parents, Noel and Allana Mais, left without commenting.

Yesterday, Llewellyn revealed that in the days leading up to the start of the trial, Wright was "non-communicative" with prosecutors.

She said her office reached out to him through the police in an effort to encourage him to read over his witness statement and be prepared ahead of the trial.

However, according to Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Wright responded by telling the police that he knew what he was going to say.

"His stance, to the best of what I have been made aware by the police, is that, certainly, very recently, he would prefer not to say anything," Llewellyn explained.

She said Taylor also tried speaking to Wright, "but he maintained this stance and indicated that he will say what he has to say when he goes to court".

Llewellyn said Taylor asked her to intervene, but this too was to no avail.

"So you hope for the best, but you can't really, in cases of this nature, be absolutely sure what a witness is going to say until he goes into the witness box because his stance was non-communicative in respect of what he was going to say," she said.

In the meantime, Queen's Counsel Patrick Atkinson, one of Powell's attorneys, has labelled as "rubbish" claims in the public domain that the contradictory evidence from the main witness suggested that he may have been bribed.

"Everybody thought this was the first time he was saying he couldn't identify anybody. He said it in a statement dated the fifth of July 2011 - the very first statement he gave," Atkinson told The Gleaner.

"This is why it is so important when you report it, that you don't mislead them (the public). Because you mislead the public that this man suddenly turned when he comes to give evidence so, therefore, everybody thinks he must have been reached. It's rubbish; I don't know who they say are trying to reach him and they better be careful about that."

Atkinson said the police should explain why an identification parade involving his client was called off.

Wright took the witness stand last Thursday and testified that his taxi collided into a "high-back" vehicle that suddenly appeared before him in rainy and foggy conditions.

When he was confronted by Taylor the following day with a statement in which he allegedly gave Inspector Vernal Thompson, details of how the incident unfolded and a description of a man he saw with a gun, the taxi operator repeatedly denied, including those details in the statement he gave the police.

Thompson, the sole witness called yesterday, testified that Wright visited him at the Constant Spring Police Station on July 8, 2011 and gave his statement voluntarily.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com