Thu | May 13, 2021

Prosecutors seek to free seven on murder, gang charges

Published:Wednesday | April 21, 2021 | 12:03 PM
The judge indicated that he will hear legal arguments on the conditional nolle prosecui before deciding the next step.

Prosecutors today took steps to have seven persons, including three members of the Coke clan, conditionally freed of murder and gang-related charges.

But the move was stopped by High Court judge Justice Leighton Pusey, who said he wanted to ensure that "any constitutional provisions exercised in court are used in a manner that is fair".

Andrew Coke, Lanchester Coke, Michael Coke, Iesha Jones, David Biggs, Delmarco Cephas, and Wayne Page were set to walk free from the Supreme Court after prosecutors told Pusey that Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn had taken a decision to enter a conditional nolle prosecui in the case.

All seven are charged with murder and participating in a criminal organisation.

"The Crown is experiencing difficulties locating witnesses," one prosecutor explained.

However, the prosecutor indicated that "we have begun the process to attempt to locate the witnesses or make an application under the Evidence Act".

The conditional nolle prosecui means the case can be put back before the courts if the witnesses are located or, as indicated by the prosecutor, if their witness statements can be admitted under Section 31 of the Evidence Act.

Under Section 94 of the Jamaican Constitution, the Director of Public Prosecutions is empowered to institute, take over or discontinue a criminal prosecution.

That constitutional provision set off an exchange between the prosecutor and Pusey.

"The director [of public prosecutions] has taken a position based on her constitutional power. So, it wasn't an application," the prosecutor told Pusey.

"In other words, you are saying I have no discretion?" the judge enquired.

"I'm humbly suggesting that," the prosecutor replied.

In the end, Pusey indicated that he will hear legal arguments on the conditional nolle prosecui tomorrow before deciding the next step.

"A question of law is whether I need to accept the conditional nolle," Pusey said.

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