COKE CLAN FREE
Murder, gang case collapses as ‘Dudus’ relatives rejoice
Thursday’s release of three high-profile members of the notorious Coke family and four others on murder and gang-related charges served as a blow to law-enforcement and justice officials who have pitched the crushing of mafias as a key goal to collar crime.
Cheers, tears, and shouts of “Freedom!” greeted the seven who were conditionally freed because the prosecution did not have the smoking gun to press conviction as the police had difficulties locating the two main witnesses.
The seven – Andrew Coke, Lanchester Coke, Michael Coke, David Biggs, Delmarco Cephas, Wayne Page, and Iesha Jones – were transported home from the courthouse after Justice Leighton Pusey upheld a nolle prosequi that had been entered by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to suspend the matter.
A conditional nolle prosequi means that although the case is discontinued, it can be put back before the courts if the witnesses are located or if a decision is taken to rely on witness statements.
The group was charged with the murder of alleged gangster Patrick Davis in 2018 and also for being a member of a criminal organisation.
The Cokes are related to convicted drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who is in a United States prison.
Andrew and Lanchester are Dudus’ brothers and Michael is his son.
Following news on Thursday that the woman and men had been freed, residents from Tivoli Gardens in west Kingston, including relatives and friends, assembled at the front of the courthouse and rejoiced as they waited to greet the newly freed individuals.
Among those gathered was Jones’ mother, as well as Shauna, mom of Cephas’ child, and her mother, Janet Brown, who were both very emotional.
Shauna, who had tears streaming down her face, struggled to explain her happiness.
“A three years now me nuh see him. Me don’t even know how to explain it,” she said.
Brown, however, told The Gleaner that the community had prayed for their freedom and was grateful that God has answered their prayers.
“We love the whole seven a dem. The whole a dem innocent, but listen, what’s going on, [because] dem name Coke, they just want to sink dem.
“But what for you, no man can take it. God love dem. See the blessing a rain deh,” she said, her voice cracking as a drizzle began.
The seven should have been freed from Wednesday, but the judge had intervened, stating that he wanted to ensure that “any constitutional provisions exercised in court are used in a manner that is fair”.
As a result, Justice Pusey scheduled the matter for Thursday for the prosecution to make legal arguments on the nolle prosequi before making a decision.
The DPP, under Section 94 of the Jamaican Constitution, is empowered to institute, take over, or discontinue a criminal prosecution.
“In the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by this section, the DPP shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority,” Section 6 of the Constitution stipulates.
Consequently, when the matter was mentioned on Thursday, Justice Pusey, after emphasising that he was cognisant of the DPP’s powers to end prosecution at any time, told the court that it was not wise or necessary to hear the legal arguments and accept the nolle prosequi.
He, however, warned the alleged offenders that the charges could be revived at any time by the DPP.
“This is not a complete end of the prosecution. The Crown reserved the right to resurrect the matter.”
Meanwhile, DPP Paula Llewellyn, in commenting on the outcome of the proceedings, said, “What happened today is a triumph for the rule of law.”
She reiterated that under Section 94 of the Constitution, only the DPP has the power to institute, take over, or discontinue prosecution.
“When I looked at the file and discussed the matter with the deputy, we had one option or another, whether to put up and offer no evidence, because we don’t have the witnesses or to enter a conditional nolle to give the police more time to try to find the witnesses,” Llewellyn said.
According to the DPP, the witnesses were available up to late last year when the matter had been set for trial. But the prosecution had only recently been informed that the police had challenges in finding the witnesses.
Llewellyn’s office was made aware of that development last month.
The seven were arrested and charged following an investigation of the 2018 killing of Davis, who was reputed to be the leader of the Scream Corner Gang in Denham Town.
It was alleged that Davis was lured to a Kingston hotel by Jones and abducted.
His body was found in Rockfort, east Kingston.