Retrial for cops - Dissatisfied judge orders corporals to face court again, Barrett freed
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
After deliberating for five hours, a Home Circuit Court jury yesterday freed Assistant Superintendent of Police Victor Barrett of the murder of the two men who were abducted from a plaza on December 23, 2004.
Barrett's co-accused, corporals Paul Edwards and Louie Lynch, are to face a retrial based on the verdicts the 12-member jury returned.
Justice Horace Marsh said he was not accepting the verdicts. He ordered a retrial and extended the policemen's bail to return to the Home Circuit Court on February 8.
Some prosecutors are of the view that the judge should have taken the majority verdict for Edwards before sending the jury out on the second occasion to reconsider their verdicts in respect to the men.
When the jurors first returned yesterday, they found Barrett not guilty of the double murder and not guilty of accessory after the fact to murder.
The foreman said in respect of Edwards, nine jurors had said guilty while three had said not guilty on the two counts. He said for Lynch, the verdict was seven not guilty, four guilty and one abstention.
Marsh subsequently sent the jury back to reconsider their verdicts in respect of Lynch and Edwards.
UNNECESSARY TO RECONSIDER
When the jury returned about an hour later, Marsh enquired from the court reporter what was the verdict that was given. He was told and then remarked that he had sent them out to reconsider the verdicts but that was not necessary. He said in light of what had transpired, he was ordering a retrial.
Last night, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn told The Gleaner she was astonished by the judge's action.
"I must confess that I am very surprised and find it quite disconcerting that as prescribed in the amendment to the Jury Act that allows for a divided verdict to be given after a particular time for the charge of murder, that the verdict was not taken in Edwards' case," Llewellyn said.
Arguing there was precedent for that to be done in a double-murder case, she said she found it peculiar that the jurors were discharged without being asked what was their verdict when they returned on the second occasion.
"I cannot understand why this course of action was adopted," Llewellyn stressed. "When all is said and done, it is most unfortunate that unlike other jurisdictions, in Jamaica, the prosecution has no right of appeal."
The men had gone on trial on October 29, 2012 for the murder of 20-year-old apprentice mechanic Kemar Walters, of Kitson Town, St Catherine, and 44-year-old shopkeeper and blockmaker Oliver Duncan of Olympic Way, Kingston 11.
Evidence was given that the men were taken away by policemen, including Edwards and Lynch, from a plaza on Washington Boulevard in St Andrew on December 23, 2004. The men were allegedly found in possession of a stolen blue Honda CR-V when they were arrested.
Barrett was charged because the Crown alleged that he covered up the matter after a report was made to him.
The accused men, in unsworn statements from the dock, said they were innocent. They said they were never at the plaza on the day of the incident. Barrett said he had no knowledge of the double murder.
Attorney-at-law Deborah Martin, who is representing Edwards, said her client would have wanted immediate closure to the case, but was looking forward to that day in the future.
Attorney-at-law Valerie Neita-Robertson is representing Lynch.
Queen's Counsel Churchill Neita, who represented Barrett, said the jury returned a proper verdict and argued that the Crown's main witness was discredited and manifestly unreliable.