More delays stymie Keith Clarke murder case
Justice Vinette Graham-Allen yesterday again expressed frustration at the delay being experienced in the murder case surrounding the 2010 shooting death of businessman Keith Clarke.
Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin, and Private Arnold Henry were arrested and charged with murder after the businessman was shot 21 times inside his Kirkland Heights home in St Andrew on July 27 during a military operation.
The soldiers have maintained that they were given certificates of immunity by then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting which shielded them from prosecution.
The matter, which had been stalled since April 2018, was placed back on the trial list following a Court of Appeal ruling in January.
However, the matter, which is currently at the case management hearing stage in the Home Circuit Court, failed to proceed yesterday after the Crown served an outstanding statement on the defence ahead of the start of the hearing.
“If a statement is just being disclosed, we can’t do anything today,” the slightly peeved judge said, noting that the defence has to be given the opportunity to read the document and get instructions from their clients.
The prosecutor, when quizzed about the time it was received by the Crown, said between April 25 and May 30.
“Is there a reason for the delay, what is the reason for the delay in the disclosure of the statement because when you disclose anything the morning of the hearing it spells adjournment, the process must be fair,” the judge stressed.
“I am tired of saying this over and over and over again, the process must be fair,” Graham-Allen added.
Noting that he did not want to add fuel to the fire, Buckley’s lawyer, King’s Counsel Peter Champagnie, said the defence had written to the Crown enquiring about disclosure on May 30.
The judge, while acknowledging that nothing would be achieved yesterday, then asked for a new date for the matter to return and a June 27 date was agreed.
But the Crown, before agreeing on the date, pointed out that the only thing that remained outstanding was the completion of a particular application, for which notices are to be served on the defence by June 19.
The judge also asked what was causing the delay in finalising the application and was told certain documents have not yet been received.
In the meantime, the judge said the date for the hearing for the voir dire will be set at the next hearing.
DEPENDENT ON THE VOIR DIRE
The appeal court had ruled that a voir dire, or a trial within the trial, must be conducted by a judge alone to determine whether the director of public prosecutions can rebut the certificates of good faith issued by the minister.
The outcome of that hearing will determine whether the case will proceed to trial.
Jury selection was forced to a halt in August 2018 after defence lawyers surprised the Crown with certificates of immunity.
Clarke’s widow, Claudette, had then challenged the validity of the certificates.
Consequently, the Constitutional Court ruled in February 2020 that the immunity certificates were invalid, null, and void and that the soldiers should stand trial.
However, the nation’s second-highest court struck down the Constitutional Court’s ruling regarding the certificates but affirmed the decision that the soldiers should be tried.
The soldiers had reportedly gone in search of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the now-convicted Jamaican drug lord who is in a United States prison, when Clarke was killed.
Coke was the target of an islandwide manhunt after escaping a security dragnet inside his west Kingston enclave of Tivoli Gardens.
King’s Counsel Valerie Neita-Robertson appears for Tingling and attorney-at-law Linton Gordon represents Henry.