by CATO RAND
In the late 1970ʼs, if my memory serves me right, there was a show on local television called “Love, American Style”….Well, I am about to give you another series, but this one is not a drama. It is called “JUSTICE, JAMAICAN STYLE”.
This series is a comedy and to be more specific, a farce. It could even be considered a tragedy. The justice system in Jamaica needs an immediate overhaul. And I didn’t come to this conclusion after Detective Sergeant Lloyd Kelly was recently freed of murder charges.
Now let me preface my arguments by stating that I am not expecting the Jamaican justice system to be perfect. After all humans, who are not infallible, manage it and thus errors are going to happen. But I think the problems plaguing our justice system are systemic and thus there is cause for concern.
Detective Sergeant Lloyd Kelly Freed
These problems are more profound than a lack of resources. Sad to say, but one is just not surprised anymore at some of the decisions coming out of our courts. That Detective Sergeant Kelly could be freed with his lawyers claiming self-defense (supported by his colleagues) is jaw dropping.
Jamaicans, here and abroad, saw a video that showed the victim Ian ‘Ching Sing’ Lloyd rolling on the ground, surrounded by police officers and citizens, being beaten by a uniformed policeman and then shot by Detective Kelly.
Even with Lloyd throwing stones and attempting to use a broken bottle to harm police personnel, it is impossible to believe that these policemen thought their existence threatened, based on the video presented.
I do understand that the video could not be entered into evidence with the provenance of the video not established. But I think it is a complete joke that the report of the pathologist could not be submitted; and thus Kellyʼs lawyers could enter a no-case submission and argue that it is not possible to know if Lloyd had died from injuries received while being beaten or from the gunshot wound!
The pathologist who did the autopsy no longer resides in Jamaica and it will be interesting to see the outcome of other cases in which his reports are of relevance. Will reports for these cases be similarly barred or will a method be found for the reports to be entered into evidence if the accused does not enjoy favored status.
I found utterances by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Ms. Paula Llewellyn a bit disturbing. She appeared in studio on CVM TV News and mentioned how gallantly the Crown Counsel fought in the Kelly case. She intimated that the success of the Prosecution depended on the quality of the evidence it had to work with, implying that investigators had done less than a satisfactory job.
If the DPP knew she had a weak hand, why bring charges? I do not think that the courtroom should be used as the forum to appease the public, a public appalled at what they saw when the video was aired. Or was his prosecution aimed at blunting criticisms from international observers?
I must however commend the DPP on her efforts to engage the public, but I do think she is in the media a bit too much. At times her efforts at answering questions makes the rule of law seem frivolous, when it is anything but.
The Rape of Five Women in St. James
Aiming to appease the public can be the only reason that the Crown is continuing to prosecute the two men accused of raping four women and an 8 year-old girl in Irwin, St James.
DNA samples have cleared the two accused, currently in custody. They are not responsible for that most dastardly of acts. So here comes another no-case submission if the DPP does not come to her senses and drop the charges. The taxpayer I suspect will be called upon to provide funds to settle a lawsuit against the State as the two co-accused were beaten by others when placed in jail.
Christopher Coke, aka “Dudus”, aka “The President”
And what about former Tivoli Gardens and JLP party strongman “Dudus” Coke who pleaded guilty in a US Court to drug charges, when our Police did not seem to have as much as a traffic ticket against him?
Everybody in the country (but for former JLP Prime Minister Golding and some of his Ministers) knew through the grapevine that Mr. Coke was part of a major extortion and drug running operation.
At the time his extradition request was sent by the US justice system, Mr. Coke’s local Attorney (and a JLP Government Senator to boot at the time), Tom Tavares-Finson in his defense stated in an article from the Economist:
“Nobody has heard of him being involved in any criminal activity.”…..(Mr Coke) is “just an ordinary Jamaican going about his everyday business…trying to improve the lot of his children, his family and his community, with a recognition that he has an influence…and that influence is what is propelling the transformation of western Kingston.”
I guess were all stupid. Interestingly, the London Evening Standard newspaper printed an article from as far back as September 2001 detailing the activities of Mr. Coke (as reported in Jamaican press).
The Horror of Jungle Justice
And donʼt believe for a moment that the problems reside only with those in authority. The average citizen seems ready to arm himself with a machete and enforce his version of ʻjungle justice’.
Recently in Zion, Trelawny a man was chopped to death, his daughter severely wounded and their house burnt to the ground by citizens who went in search of the man’s son. They believed that the man’s son was responsible for molesting (buggering) and killing two boys. The two boys had been missing for a few days and their decomposing bodies were found floating in a river in the community.
Citizens – even before an autopsy was done – had concluded that boys had been ‘touched’ and they also knew who was responsible. They then went looking for this young man and having not found him proceeded to mete out their justice, with blows and machete chops on his father and sister. As we say in Jamaica “cyan ketch quako yuh ketch him shut”.
Within days of that incident a teacher was killed by a mob in Old Harbour, St. Catherine after he knocked down some bystanders at the scene of another accident.
Then earlier this year an angry mob hacked to death a Briton in Negril, Westmoreland who is alleged to have stabbed his girlfriend’s brother (non-fatally) during an altercation regarding a cell phone charger.
Considering how quickly the wheels of justice turn in Jamaica it is no wonder our citizens take the law into their own hands. There is currently an estimated backlog of 400,000 cases in the local courts.
Frequently we observe on local news, you will see persons shouting at the cameras, “We want justice! We want justice!” But its apparent these persons do not understand the concept of justice and do not believe in the rule of law and the basic principles and tenets that a man accused of even the most horrific of acts should be accorded due process, have his day in court and presumed innocent until his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt with the evidence brought forward.
It is indeed sad that after these episodes of private citizens taking the law into their own hands the society hardly misses a beat. It was as if nothing had happened and we wait to be titillated by the next mob killing. Our media seem to comment on these cases not so much to inform the public that these actions are barbaric and should not be a feature of a modern, civilized society but more to gain market share with their sensational account of what transpired.
Extrajudicial and accidental killings by agents of the State
Expecting the average citizen to embrace the concept of due process may be asking for too much, as it would seem that due process is not emphasized in the training of our security forces. Each year on average, the police kill some 200-250 Jamaicans.
The standard scenario in these extrajudicial killings by the Jamaican police is usually one of persons, who are suspects in a crime, who engage the police in a shootout and are fatally wounded. You could photocopy the same report for each incident. The crimes, for which the victims are supposedly responsible for, then fall into the police’s “clear-up” file. Based on the stats for January, it appears that the police are aiming to increase their tally for this year.
Do Right From Yaad readers remember the Janice Allen case? Janice Allen was a 13 year-old young girl who was shot and killed in 2000 by the police, allegedly in a battle with suspected gunmen.
This young girl was not taken to hospital by the police who it seems did not want the car (which by the way is public property) to be bloodied. She had to wait until a taxi came by and was then transported to the nearby Kingston Public Hospital where she died soon after arrival.
When the case was called up for trial the usual comedy of errors ensued, with among other things the disappearance of the records to indicate which policeman was assigned the gun involved in Janiceʼs death.
The Crown Counsel asked the judge to dismiss the case as a key witness had emigrated. It was soon found out that the witness was merely overseas for some time and had not permanently left the jurisdiction.
What is particularly sad is that the Crown could have entered a nolle prosequi – in effect, suspending the case so that if the witness later turns up the trial could proceed. The accused policeman having already been acquitted could not face the Court again when it was established that an error had been made re: the whereabouts of the key witness, as this would constitute ‘double jeopardy’.
Janice Allen is from among those “poor people” in whose interest the country is supposedly being governed. Her mother Millicent Forbes, fought in vain until her own death in 2010, seeking justice from the state for the murder of her daughter.
Tivoli and Keith Clarke
Speaking of Mr. Coke earlier, when will we learn of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Keith Clarke at the hands of agents of the State? What of the report from the Public Defender to get justice for the scores of persons who died in Tivoli when the security forces entered the community to apprehend “The President”?
Most of our courthouses are not the most impressive of buildings and are in need of dire renovations. One could easily drive past a Jamaican courthouse without noticing, unless someone pointed it out to you.
I think our courthouses should be grand, palatial structures. Once you enter one, it should be as if you have entered another world. You should readily get a sense of the seriousness of matters to be deliberated within its walls. I guess the poor conditions of our courts are a fitting metaphor for Jamaican jurisprudence.
I could not restrain myself from laughing when I heard former Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne remark on radio that during a visit to the University of Technology by one of her officers an idea of how to solve the problem of the lack of space plaguing our courts germinated. She was going to see to the conversion of shipping containers, turning them into courtrooms!
If for no other reason we should rejoice that the Jamaica Labour Party lost the last General Elections and we must hope that this is one idea emanating from the previous administration that present Justice Minister Mark Golding is not high on.
Empanelling a jury in Jamaica may be harder than the proverbial camel traversing the eye of a needle. Many persons abscond from jury summonses, of those persons who do turn up for jury duty they can’t get by the simple swearing in, as they cannot read. And not to mention the critical thinking or lack thereof employed by our jurors. One juror in the recent Rushon Hamilton case remarked that he must be guilty as you will confess to your guilt when your conscience bites you.
At the other end of the spectrum we have persons who are professional jurors – leaving home each morning as if off to work – participating in trials so as to ensure the desired outcome of the Crown. I won’t even get into jurors soliciting bribes from the defense.
What is a Capital vs. a Non-Capital Case?
There is one more case that I must comment on to illustrate what passes for justice in Jamaica. A man had his sentence for capital murder correctly overturned on appeal, as the justices concluded that his sentence should be for non-capital murder. This man had used a ladder to climb into the victim’s house and then chopped him/her to death. Since he had merely chopped the victim to death and not say rob the victim, he should have been convicted for non-capital murder.
The great thinkers in our country had so classified murder that if this man had intended to rob his victim and in so doing had killed his victim he could face the ultimate penalty. But since he went to the victim’s house and only had the intent to chop him/her to death then his penalty should be a life sentence, not death by hanging. (I think the authorities have subsequently amended the criteria for capital and non-capital murders).
A just society is an important contribution to economic growth and is necessary for securing peace. The promotion of a just and fair society should be the primary function of government. However, in Jamaica events that have unfolded over the years illustrate that we have some way to go to establish a culture of justice.
We need to take immediate steps to eliminate this comedy of errors that we call a justice system and replace it with one underpinned by the principle of individual rights and ensure that the rule of law is the foundation for the just and fair society that we all crave. To paraphrase former Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe – “No justice. No peace”….and might I add, “No prosperity”.