THE ACQUITTAL of a policeman in the fatal shooting of a teenage boy 15 years ago has triggered angry criticisms at the way the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) handled this and three other controversial police killings.
This latest development, the lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has warned, could erode confidence in the Office of the DPP and drive more Jamaicans to take the law into their own hands.
"If the citizenry lose faith in the formal justice processes, they will be left with no recourse but to take justice into their own hands," said JFJ Chairperson Susan Goffe.
But in a swift response, DPP Paula Llewellyn defended her office's handling of all the cases and fired back at her critics.
"What do they expect us to do, make blood out of stone?" Llewellyn said.
She said in most cases, witnesses are reluctant to come forward at trial, and insisted that her office has to be held to a higher standard.
Calvin Lewis, the policeman accused of killing 17-year-old Hapete Henry at a football match inside the National Stadium in 1998, was freed on Monday after the presiding judge directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty.
The judge's instruction to the jury came after prosecutors indicated that they had encountered several challenges in presenting the case.
This left the victim's elderly father George Henry and Goffe livid over what they argue was the mismanagement of the case by prosecutors.
"Me no get no justice man ...," said George Henry.
"Dem say dem no know him (the accused), dem never see him before, it wasn't him, but before that, it was him. What is that?" he asked of the conflicting statements given by one prosecution witness.
Goffe went further, asserting that the "substandard prosecution" in the case could engender further loss of confidence in the DPP's office.
"You are not always going to get the verdict that you want, but if you feel that the matter was properly investigated, has been vigorously prosecuted, and then you don't get the verdict (you want), you are disappointed, but you understand," Goffe reasoned.
"But where you feel that not everything was done that could have been done, it does leave a very bad taste," she added.
The acquittal of Lewis comes weeks after Police Sergeant Lloyd Kelly was freed of the murder of Ian Lloyd in Buckfield, St Ann, an incident that was recorded on a cellphone video.
DPP says her office cannot force witnesses to come forward