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).
Every lawyer who is a father carries the hope that one of his children will follow his footsteps and do law. I was no exception, but not wishing to seem to try to influence my children's career choices I kept it close to my breast. Eventually, one did follow me, but not the one who I first imagined. I knew my first son, Scott, was not heading in that direction, as he started out in hotel management and ended up with a doctoral degree in psychology. He is presently assistant dean of diversity at Florida International University.
My first daughter, Kelly, in whom I saw a budding lawyer from an early age because of her garrulous nature, also branched off into the world of commerce and is currently vice-president of a securities firm. Prior to this, she rendered invaluable service to Mr Chris Dehring in his capacity as chairman of the West Indies staging of Cricket World Cup.
It fell to my second daughter, Candis, to grant me the honour of following in my legal footsteps. I had not been looking in her direction, but should have been, as she displayed a strong human-rights passion from an early age, and persevered, having graduated with honours from Howard University and gone on to be admitted to the Florida thence the Jamaica Bar. She is currently my legal partner.
Before the Court on a charge of murder was Constable Everald Robinson, who was accused of being criminally responsible for the death of Kevin Dickson (alias Sun god).
The prosecution's case was simply that on June 18, 2004, the accused who resided in a housing scheme known as Boone Hall in the parish of St Andrew, was seen running from the direction of his home with a gun. About the same time, there was the sound of a gunshot, while the deceased, Dickson, was seen running ahead of him. A witness whose occupation was given as a car washer in the Boone Hall housing scheme, gave evidence for the prosecution that he saw the accused chasing Dickson and fired a shot at him which caused him to fall. He added that the accused then went over Dickson and shot him again before handcuffing him. According to the witness, while Dickson was lying on the ground, just before he was shot the second time, he pleaded with the accused, "Missa Robbie! Missa Robbie! Yuh a goh kill mi?" He said after shooting Dickson again the accused turned and walked away in the direction of his home.
The witness told the Court of the police being summoned, adding that before their arrival, a nurse who lived in the housing scheme tried to render first aid to Dickson by tying his injured leg to stop the bleeding. The medical evidence, which was critical to the outcome of the case, revealed two bullet injuries, the first of which was an entry wound on the right mid-posterior thigh without gunpowder residue directed downwards and exiting on the anterior medial aspect of the right lower thigh, 11 centimetres below the entry wound. The second was an entry wound on the right lower buttock and exiting on the left upper anterior thigh, again 11 centimetres below the entry.
Police Superintendent Derrick Knight gave character evidence on behalf of the accused, whom he described to the Court as devoted to duty and especially given to restraint under pressure. When the jury returned a verdict of not guilty of either murder or manslaughter, after nearly one hour's deliberation, my daughter turned to me and asked, "Daddy, is this what you have been doing all your life?" I replied, "Yes dear." She followed up, "Well, you can have it. I cannot take it and I intend to concentrate on property conveyance and probate."
I don't believe that she will really walk away from the Court room because from she was 10 years old, I realised that she had the passion for defence. I believe the bug will bite her again.