Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Keith Clarke trial paused for immunity case hearing

Published:Thursday | May 28, 2020 | 12:00 AM

The quest for justice by the family of Keith Clarke, who was killed in a military operation 10 years ago in the hunt for the criminal Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, will drag on even more following the latest ruling of the Court of Appeal.

In a May 5 decision, the court granted a request of the accused Jamaica Defence Force soldiers to have their trial paused until the hearing of an appeal in relation to the so-called and belatedly signed ?good-faith certificates? that were expected to grant them immunity from prosecution.

In February, a panel of Supreme Court judges ruled that the certificates, which were signed in 2016, six years after the incident, were unconstitutional, manifestly unfair, and unreasonable based on the circumstances in which they were issued.

The lower court also said that such certificates, in general, do not prevent the director of public prosecutions from bringing a criminal case against anyone who benefits from them. It ordered that the case be restored to the trial list.

But Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin, and Private Arnold Henry want the ruling tested in the Court of Appeal and have now successfully got a stay of the trial till the court pronounces on the good-faith certificates.

Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop, the single judge who considered the application for a stay of the trial, said the soldiers have 'more than a fanciful prospect of success' on some of their claims, and in the interest of justice, the trial should wait.

While noting that further delays 'must be a matter of grave concern' for Clarke's widow, Claudette, the judge said the circumstances of the case and the issues regarding the good-faith certificates are 'not only unusual, but unprecedented'.

The soldiers, the justice said, are also facing 'grave consequences' since they are ?in peril of losing their liberty?.

The 'balance of justice but also the balance of convenience' is in favour of delaying the trial, the judge concluded, noting that 'precious judicial time' could be wasted if the trial goes ahead and the soldiers later win their appeal against the ruling that stripped them of immunity.

Clarke was shot 21 times and killed at his Kirkland Heights home during an operation conducted by the Jamaica Defence Force purportedly to capture Coke.