Shock immunity - JDF says soldiers accused of killing Keith Clarke shielded from prosecution
The trial of the three soldiers accused of murdering businessman Keith Clarke turned into a legal drama yesterday after lawyers for the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) appeared in court with immunity certificates, signed by the former minister of national security, Peter Bunting.
After six years of delay, Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin and Private Arnold Henry were scheduled to stand trial for allegedly shooting Clarke 21 times inside his Kirkland Close, St Andrew, home on March 27, 2010.
But before prosecutors could empanel a jury, JDF attorney Paul Beswick asked presiding judge, Justice Glen Brown, to halt the proceedings, declaring that the soldiers were shielded from prosecution through certificates of immunity that were signed by Bunting six years after Clarke's death.
"I hereby certify that the actions of Corporal Odel Buckley on May 27, 2010, between the hours of 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. at 18 Kirkland Close, Red Hills,
St Andrew, which may have contributed to, or caused, the death of Keith Clarke, were done in good faith in the exercise of his functions as a member of the security forces for public safety, the restoration of order, the preservation of peace and in the public interest," said Beswick, quoting from the document.
He told the court that there were similar certificates for Tinglin and Henry.
"The defendants now claim immunity from this prosecution. It is incumbent on the court to respect the certificates and dismiss the proceedings against these defendants," Beswick said in his application to have the trial halted.
However, in her response, the nation's chief prosecutor, Paula Llewellyn, raised a number of issues with the certificates and questioned Bunting's actions.
"My learned friends [JDF attorneys] have not provided one scintilla of evidence that the soldiers were acting in good faith," she argued.
Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions, pointed out, too, that the documents presented in court were photocopies. "There is no affidavit which can attest to the authenticity of these copy documents," she complained.