Sat | Oct 23, 2021

Cops’ trial in Mario Deane case hit with 10th delay

New trial date set for April 20, 2022

Published:Monday | September 20, 2021 | 12:05 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

The three police officers facing multiple charges arising from the 2014 death of Mario Deane, who died subsequent to a brutal beating he suffered while in police custody, had the case against them rescheduled for a 10th time last week when they appeared in the St James Circuit Court.

Corporal Elaine Stewart and District Constables Juliana Clevon and Marlon Grant got the new trial date from High Court Justice Stephanie Jackson-Haisley after the court was told that the defendants preferred to have their case tried by a jury. Jury trials have been suspended since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, to restrict the spread of the virus.

During last week’s court hearing, Clevon’s attorney, Morrel Beckford, told Jackson-Haisley that while discussions had been held over whether to have the case tried by the judge alone, all three defendants and their legal team – which includes attorney Martyn Thomas, representing Stewart and Grant – preferred for the case to undergo a jury trial.

“A trial by judge had been previously canvassed, and we are electing to have it be tried by a jury, although we have had discussions acknowledging the reality of the situation [concerning COVID-19 restrictions],” Beckford explained.

The court also issued a subpoena for all of the prosecution’s witnesses to be present when the matter is heard again on April 20.

The case’s latest mention marks the 10th time that the long-awaited trial has been rescheduled since the three police officers first appeared before the St James Circuit Court on September 18, 2018.

The case was mentioned on October 2 and 10, 2018, for a case management hearing to agree on what evidence would be deliberated at trial. It was mentioned on January 11 and 31, 2019, where the full disclosure of documents was not done, and again on March 28, 2019, when a trial date was set for March 10, 2020.

ABSENCE

However, the trial was rescheduled to September 21, 2020, due to a lack of jurors and the absence of the investigating officer. On that date, it was put off to January 18, 2021, because attorneys Thomas and Beckford wanted their clients to undergo a jury trial, despite jury trials being restricted because of the pandemic. On January 18, last week’s date was set for the trial’s anticipated start following further discussions with the lawyers.

According to the allegations, the three officers were on duty at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay at the time when Deane was brutally beaten on August 3, 2014, while in custody at the facility for possession of a ganja spliff. Deane, who was 31 years old, died three days later at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

It is also alleged that Stewart, the most senior officer of the trio, gave instructions for the cell where the beating took place to be cleaned before the arrival of investigators from the Independent Commission of Investigations.