Sun | Feb 5, 2023

‘There was nothing to gain’

Judge: One key witness could be more credible, stepping forward without interest to serve

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2023 | 1:31 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

As his summation in the Clansman-One Don Gang trial began on Monday, Justice Bryan Sykes said there might be some believability to the evidence of the main witness who had volunteered information about the gang to the police, as opposed to the other key witness who had reached out to the police while he was on bail and had ultimately escaped prosecution after giving a statement.

The judge made the observation while summing up the evidence of one of the Crown’s main witnesses, an ex-gangster who had identified himself as the gang’s banker.

Justice Sykes, who started summation on Monday following a lengthy adjournment of the trial since September, noted that the witness’ credibility has to be assessed on whether he has an interest to serve.

The witness in question had testified that he had reached out to the police after he was arrested and charged along with other defendants and that he knew that the police had an interest in developing a case against the alleged gang leader, Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan.

However, the judge noted that as it pertains to having an interest to serve, his case was in stark contrast to the other main witness, who is also a former gang member.

That witness had testified that he was Blackman’s personal driver and that he was eventually promoted to the role of being a community don. However, he said that he eventually worked up the courage to go to the police after he got cold feet on his first attempt at filing a report.

He claimed he wanted to put a stop to the gang and end the killing, robberies and extortion.

Justice Sykes, in commenting on his evidence, said, “There is no evidence that Mr ... was under investigation or even wanted by the police. That is the evidence coming from the police. They really didn’t know of him until he voluntarily went to the police, so to the extent that he has an interest to serve – that is, in maintaining his uncharged status – it has to be looked at from that standpoint.”

“Their enquiries did not reveal that he was named as a person of interest, or a person wanted or connected to any crime committed in the St Catherine North Police Division, so that would suggest that there may very well be some credibility to be attached to the proposition that he just wanted to put all of this behind him and move on because, at the point when he went to the police, there was nothing to gain from the State ... ,” the judge added.

But while the witness had told the court that he was not promised anything for his evidence, the judge said there was evidence that he was involved in some kind of protection programme.

On the other hand, he noted that the other witness had approached the police while he was on bail and that after giving a statement, the charges against him were dropped.

Justice Sykes also recalled the witness’ evidence that he did not want to waste the court’s time and that he went to the police to help Jamaica and stop the bloodshed.

At the same time, the judge recalled a suggestion from Bryan’s lead lawyer, Lloyd McFarlane, during cross-examination, that the witness was not really generous and civic-minded, but was seeking “curry favour” from the Crown to escape prosecution and that it would serve his interest to fabricate a story against Bryan.

The judge also pointed out that it was the gang’s banker’s evidence that he did not know that it would help his case if he gave evidence against Bryan.

The two former ex-gangsters, who claimed they were both drivers in the gangs and were top-tier members, both gave evidence in which they detailed a number of murders and shootings that the gangs had allegedly carried out.

The reputed leader and 26 other alleged gang members are being tried on an indictment with multiple counts of offences under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act and the Firearms Act.

One of the defendants, Andre Smith, was shot dead last August, while five others were freed.

Justice Sykes will continue his summation today.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com