The Wrong Answer Came First (St Ann)
Howard Hamilton, QC, is one of Jamaica's most noted criminal defence attorneys-at-law. 'Born to Defend', chronicles the highs and lows of a brilliant 50-year legal career in advocacy, which takes him across the 14 parishes of the island as well as the wider Caribbean. Sophisticated and urbane, yet compassionate and sincere, Hamilton recounts some of his most memorable cases with honesty, humility and humour including extracts from his 73 consecutive acquittals partnership with Patrick Atkinson, QC, (currently Jamaica's attorney general).
It was election time - March 1993 and the fever was running high. The restrictions on civilians wearing military attire was being strictly enforced, because it was then fashionable for civilians to don clothing made from army camouflage fabric. Against this background, on March 27, 1993, a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) captain and his subordinates, Lieutenant Trevor Henry and Lance Corporal Richard Maxwell on special patrol of Brown's Town, in the parish of St Ann. On observing a civilian walking by in a camouflage jacket resembling standard army fatigue they went in pursuit of the individual, who took off on seeing the soldiers.
The fleeing civilian darted up a stairway at the side of a nearby building that turned out to be the office of the Jamaica Labour Party caretaker, well-known attorney Ernest Smith. Rushing up the stairway taken by the civilian they pushed open the door by which the civilian had entered.
Entering the room to which that doorway led, their attention was drawn to three male civilians found in the room and a camouflage jacket swinging from an iron bar rack as if it had been hung there only a second earlier.
The JDF captain being the patrol leader spoke first, demanding to know of the civilians to whom the still swinging camouflage jacket belonged. He received no answer whereupon he directed another question to the civilian nearest to him, who turned out to be a policeman, Constable Rupert Sinclair, assigned as personal bodyguard to Mr Smith. "Mi a police affisa!" Sinclair shouted, as he extended one of his arms behind him and began pulling his firearm from under his shirt to the rear of his waistband, possibly to prove the point. Taking no chances with Sinclair's "answer in motion", Lieutenant Henry and Lance Corporal Maxwell were later to report that by the time the gun coming from his waistband became visible they had hit the ground and each fired a single round from their army rifle at him. Both rounds hit him and he died instantly.
In the aftermath of the shooting incident and routine investigation by police detectives, Lieutenant Henry and Lance Corporal Maxwell were charged with the murder of Sinclair and Miller.
The important question that came to be decided by the jury, bearing in mind the contention of our clients that they fired at Sinclair not Miller, was who shot Miller?
The post mortem evidence of the pathologist revealed that the body of Sinclair had two through and through bullet injuries, meaning entry and exit wounds. On the other hand, Miller's body only had a bullet lodged in it.
Unfortunately, before the conclusion of the trial Lieutenant Henry, the sole defence witness, died of natural causes. However, when the defence called a substitute witness from the JDF, who produced the block of steel shown to us at the JDF headquarters, the case was virtually over. We advanced a theory that when the soldiers' bullets hit Sinclair, his gun was involuntarily discharged hitting Miller, establishing that Sinclair did, in fact, pull his gun that day.