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Illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible but ...

Published:Saturday | March 6, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor,
Sir:

If, as the prime minister said in Parliament recently, indictment against Christopher 'Dudus' Coke was secured by illegally obtained evidence which, in my opinion, is inadmissible in the United States, the Government of Jamaica is absolutely correct in not extraditing Mr Coke whether or not Coke is friend or foe; and it is immaterial whether Mr Coke is a member of the Jamaica Labour Party or even a friend or brother of the prime minister.

In this context, the US courts have consistently held in recent times that evidence of the finding of incriminating evidence in the course of illegal activity is inadmissible. The indictment is governed by the laws of the United States, and the Supreme Court of the United States in
Mapp v Ohio
(1960), 81A Sup Ct Rep 1684 affirmed the rule which it had laid down in
Weeks v United States
(1914), 232 US 383, that evidence secured through illegal search and seizure was inadmissible. Also instructive is United States of America,
Plaintiff-Appellee v Lenin M. JEREZ and Carlos M. Solis
, Defendants- Appellants Nos. 95-1549, 95-1562, United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit; argued September 18, 1995; decided February 27, 1997.

For the interest of the public, the position of Jamaica is entirely different because such evidence with a few exceptions are generally admissible with the judge having a guided or qualified discretion as distinct from an absolute discretion to disallow. I think our
R v Howard
(12 JLR, 109) deals comprehensively with our current law which has its origin in the principle laid down in the words of Crompton J. (y) in
R v Leatham
(1861), 8 Cox C.C. 498 at p 503 that if the evidence is relevant it is admissible when he literally said, "It matters not how you get it, if you steal it even, it would be admissible in evidence."

This principle was sanctioned by the Privy Council in the case of
Kuruma v R.
(1955) A.C. 197 which is the law of Jamaica as stated before with certain exceptions, one of which is inadmissibility of involuntary statement.

I am, etc.,

OWEN S CROSBIE

oss@cwjamaica.com

3 Hotel Street

Mandeville