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'Livity' freed of gun charges

Published:Thursday | May 10, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

There were cheers yesterday from a small crowd outside the Supreme Court building when news broke that Leighton 'Livity' Coke had been freed of charges of shooting with intent and illegal possession of firearm.

Coke, the brother of former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, was charged arising from the unrest in west Kingston in May 2010. He was accused of firing at the police when they went in search of his brother, who was wanted by the United States (US) government to face several charges. Christopher was extradited to the US, where he pleaded guilty to assault and racketeering and is now awaiting his sentence.

Justice David Fraser, after reviewing the evidence for three days, ruled yesterday that Coke was not guilty.

Fraser said he could not rely on the identification evidence adduced by the Crown. The judge described the evidence as unreliable.

Nearly two years in custody

Attorneys Carolyn Reid-Cameron and Chukwuemeka Cameron, who were instructed by attorney-at-law Priya Levers, said their client was happy to know that justice had been done. Coke had been in custody since July 2010.

He was allegedly beaten this year by soldiers while at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre and has filed a suit in the Supreme Court.

Three policemen had testified in the Gun Court that between 11:30 a.m. and midday on May 24, 2010 that they were near the railway line in west Kingston when they were fired on by men - including the accused Coke - who were on McKenzie Drive near to Rasta City in Tivoli Gardens. They said the men were about 30 feet from them at the time of the shooting.

In an unsworn statement, Coke said he was not in Tivoli Gardens on the day the police said he fired shots at them. He called a witness who supported his alibi that he was at home for the entire day.

Expert witnesses called

The defence called two expert witnesses, one of whom was a land surveyor, who said he took measurements and prepared a map of the area. He said the distance in relation to the alleged shooting incident was 300 feet and not 30 feet as the policemen testified. The map was tendered in evidence.

An ophthalmologist testified that it would be difficult and challenging for a person using the naked eye to identify someone beyond a distance of 120 feet.

The judge found that the prosecution did not prove identification in light of the expert witnesses called by the defence. The judge said the police came under heavy gunfire and he believed it would affect their ability to identify Coke.

"The Crown presented the evidence based on what we had. We could not go outside of that," Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Lisa Palmer Hamilton said after the verdict was handed down.

She said the prosecution has to respect the judge's verdict. She said the judge relied heavily on the sketch from the land surveyor's report and the opinion of the ophthalmologist.

"The sketch was not shown to the Crown witnesses and they were not present when the distance was measured," she added.