Fri | May 26, 2017

EDITORIAL- Justice kicked in the gut

Published:Thursday | October 16, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Jamaica's already wobbly justice system has, in recent days, taken two hefty kicks to the gut. And people's confidence in the system is further weakened.

There was the case of Robert Hill, or 'Kentucky Kid'. He was killed in December 2009. After five and a half years, a coroner's jury ruled that five persons, including three policemen, should be charged with murder.

Kentucky Kid foretold his death - and his likely killers. He expressed his fears to the police, to the press, to human-rights groups. He posted soliloquies of those fears on the Internet. He secretly recorded and posted, videos of himself and his pregnant wife being harassed at their home. Kentucky Kid's "crime", on the available evidence, was to insist on compensation for damage to his motorcar by a police vehicle.

So, when Kentucky Kid was shot dead by the police, in what they claimed to have been a "shoot-out", most Jamaicans were sceptical.

But the director of public prosecutions (DPP) ruled there was no evidence on which to charge the policemen - Uriel Anderson, Norval Warren and Gary Thomas - or their alleged conspirators, Marvia Morgan and Donovan Brown. The coroner's jurors held otherwise.

NO POSITION TO CONTRADICT

This week in court, Paula Llewellyn, the DPP, upheld her original position. A gun allegedly retrieved from Kentucky Kid's body had been fired; it was the source of spent shells supposedly found at the scene. She was not in a position, Ms Llewellyn said, to contradict the defence's claim that the policemen acted in self-defence.

Perhaps!

But there is a scent in Denmark, the source of which is yet to be determined, but about which there is much grist for speculation.

In the meantime, Kentucky Kid's family, including a child born after his death, and most of the rest of Jamaica, wince heavily from this wind-stopping pain.

Earlier, there was the DPP's decision to enter a qualified nolle prosequi in the case of two police corporals, Louis Lynch and Paul Edwards. They are accused of murdering Kemar Walters and Oliver Duncan, who disappeared in 2004, but whose bodies were never found. Normally, the DPP's decision to go no further with a prosecution is the end of the matter. The conditional nature of this one means the possibility of a prosecution hangs over the head of those accused. They might well raise the concept of justice delayed.

AT WHAT JUSTICE?

Several months ago, there was a hung jury in the trial of these two men. A judge ordered a retrial. Ms Llewellyn's concern is that the earlier trial cost J$20 million, including the cost of flying to Jamaica two witnesses who now live abroad. She is uncertain whether the State can afford this cost.

But at what justice - for the victims and families of an alleged crime and, in this case, for corporals Lynch and Edwards?

Ms Llewellyn hopes that, by the end of 2015, Parliament will have approved legislation to allow for video evidence and that the courts will be equipped for such an eventuality. This bill was in fact passed in the Senate 23 months ago. It has since languished in the House of Representatives. After the Senate vote, we warned against delays and the proclivity of the Jamaican authorities to conflate declarations with specific actions. The prize for being right is another kick in the gut.

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