Big bill for 'death-squad' trials - Lawyers charge gov't high fees to defend cops
Attorneys representing the policemen charged with murder and other criminal offences in the so-called 'death-squad' cases have submitted bills to the Government for legal fees totaling $107 million, insiders have revealed.
"That's an average of more than $9 million per case," noted one source, who indicated that this was well above the average legal fees for a murder case.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck confirmed, during an interview with The Gleaner, that the fees submitted by the attorneys had surpassed $100 million and "might be more than that when the other claims come in".
Chuck, who told members of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament yesterday that the issue would be resolved within the next week after a meeting with the attorneys, indicated that his message to them would be clear: "You have to have some reasonable fees that the Government can afford."
The Government, through its Legal Defence Fund, provides financial assistance to police personnel facing criminal charges arising from incidents that occur in the line of duty.
One of the attorneys in the case declined to comment for this story, while attempts to contacts others were unsuccessful.
Eleven policemen attached to the Clarendon Division, ranging in rank from constables to sergeants, were arrested and charged by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in 2009 for crimes such as murder, conspiracy to murder, and wounding with intent.
They were arrested after the police oversight body alleged that they were part of a so-called police death squad that operated in the parish and were responsible for nine killings that were reported as homicides involving civilians and gunmen.
Last year, a jury found two of the policemen, Corporal Roan Morrison and Constable Collis 'Chucky' Brown, not guilty of murder and wounding with intent, but the other cases have stalled in the courts over the outstanding legal fees.
Brown is facing a second trial on three counts of murder. His attorney, Norman Godfrey, revealed in court recently that he had not been paid for his work in the first trial. Corporal Kevin Adams, who is facing four counts of murder, has had his trial postponed several times.