Lawyers want jury trial for cops in Deane case
Although jury trials have been suspended in COVID-19 era courtrooms locally, lawyers representing three cops charged in connection with the 2014 death of Mario Deane in a Montego Bay lock-up have indicated that they would prefer this option to a bench trial when the matter gets under way in January.
When Corporal Elaine Stewart and District Constables Juliana Clevon and Marlon Grant appeared in the St James Circuit Court yesterday to answer the charges of manslaughter, misconduct in a public office, and perverting the course of justice, their bails were extended and they were given the new January start date for the trial – the eighth such date since they first went before the St James Circuit Court on September 18, 2018.
During the brief proceedings, Clevon’s attorney, Morrel Beckford, told presiding High Court Justice Stephanie Jackson-Haisley that he wanted the matter to be tried by a jury although Chief Justice Bryan Sykes recently recommended that attorneys should consider bench trials – where verdicts are given by a judge instead of a jury – as jury boxes do not allow for social distancing.
“My own view is that the matter would be best dealt with by a jury trial. Given the nature of the circumstances, I believe it is best dealt with as a jury trial,” Beckford said.
Upon hearing Beckford’s request, the presiding judge told him that he and his client should decide on how they want the matter to be dealt with, highlighting the challenge of staging a jury trial.
“That is a matter for you and your client. A bench trial is an option you may want to consider in light of the current conditions,” Jackson-Haisley said.
Similarly, attorney-at-law Martyn Thomas, who is representing Stewart and Grant, said that his clients would also prefer for their case to be tried before a jury.
The three officers are said to have been on duty at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay at the time when Deane was brutally beaten on August 3, 2014, while in custody after being charged for possession of a ganja spliff.
Deane, 31, died at the Cornwall Regional Hospital three days later.
It is also alleged that Stewart gave instructions for the cell where the beating took place to be cleaned before the arrival of investigators from the Independent Commission of Investigations.