Legendary Queen's counsel and criminal lawyer, Howard Randolph Hamilton, the former parliamentary ombudsman and first public defender of Jamaica, recounts 'for the record' of Hylton W. Dennis, biographical history depositor and journalist, some of the memorable acquittal verdicts of his record 73 consecutive acquittals partnership with Patrick Atkinson QC, Jamaica's attorney general, taken from all fourteen parishes of the Island.
In his forthcoming book, he reveals how his clairvoyant aunt, Enid Crosskill, read his tea leaves and told him, matter of factly, that he was going to become a lawyer and hence he was 'Born to Defend'. From sailing across the Atlantic, to England, where he studied and was called to the Bar, to the formative years of his legal career, as a probationer, in the Government legal service. Here he was mentored by the late custos of Trelawny, Royland Barrett and magistrate turned High Court Justice Owen Parkin.
He gives the most vivid accounts of his early experiences and his transition to private practice as the protégé of two larger-than-life legal luminaries - Dudley Thompson QC and Ian Ramsay QC, that culminated with him "taking Silk" himself, in the finest tradition of Chambers 53 (Church Street) then led by Ramsay whom he succeeded as lead counsel.
He delves, humorously, into how, despite his 'macaroni' frame, he became president of the Jamaica Amateur Weightlifting Association and held that office for 10 years, while with his penchant for rib-tickling jokes, he rounds off the 'entertainment segment' with regaling anecdotes of the lighter moments in court.
Not to be left out are his avid sports-loving pursuits since entering high school at Jamaica College; the notorious dexterity of his 'dancing legs'; his responsible conduct as a husband and father, and the velvet lining of his 'lion-heart' that has led to his over 50 years at the Bar.
Over the coming weeks, The Gleaner will carry excerpts from Born to Defend, which is going to hit the stands soon.
A question frequently asked of defence Counsel is "How can you defend the guilty?" The short answer is that it is your sworn obligation to defend all persons who seek your guidance and help. Defending doesn't mean defending a person who has confessed his guilt, for such a person is deserving of the best efforts being advanced on his behalf from the point of view of sentencing and your obligation is to advise accordingly. However, the fact that he admits to committing the offence does not necessarily mean he is guilty as there may be defences available to such an accused, for example self-defence or accidents, but where the admission amounts to an admission of guilt the first recourse is to advise on the course of a plea to the offence or lesser offences. Until that admission is made Counsel should never, never, make his own conclusion on the question of guilt. I did it once and fortunately friends and circumstances persuaded me to change my view, otherwise an innocent man would have gone to the gallows.
The brutal 1970s murder of Permanent Secretary Ted O'Gilvie, which took place in broad daylight, may possibly have been the first acknowledged 'hit' - contract killing - to take place in Jamaica. Mr O'Gilvie was, at the time, chief of administration in the Ministry of Works.
He was thought to have been killed because, as the chief accounting officer, he was conducting an investigation of alleged corruption in that ministry having to do with construction of the McGregor Gully in east Kingston. He was gunned down by two young men travelling on a motor bike, while in the process of opening his gate, having gone home for lunch as was his routine practice.
For almost one year following his murder, the local news media led by the Gleaner newspaper repeatedly called for an arrest of the person or persons responsible. The crescendo of outrage grew stronger and stronger each passing month until eventually, the announcement came one day that someone had been charged.