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A long trial plagued by delays

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator — Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2014    

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THE corruption trial of former Junior Energy Minister Kern Spencer and his former co-accused Coleen Wright snaked through the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court for close to five years.

Spencer and Wright were arrested on February 26, 2008 following a complaint from then Energy Minister Clive Mullings. They were subsequently released on bail.

A host of legal challenges can be blamed for the delays in the closely watched Cuban light bulb trial presided over by Senior Magistrate Judith Pusey. The following is a brief look at some of the myriad legal wranglings that plagued the trial since it commenced on September 7, 2009.

September 9, 2009: An application is made for attorneys Richard Small and Heron Dale -- the lawyers for prosecution main witness Rodney Chin -- to be barred from coming to the trial as they could be called to give evidence as to how charges against Chin were dropped and his status changed from that of co-accused to main witness. The application, which held up the trial for a day, came as Chin was about to take the witness stand. Pusey subsequently ruled that Small should remain outside for Chin's evidence.

September 28, 2009: The case is delayed for a month to allow the prosecution to make transcripts of recordings made by Chin of conversations with Spencer after the scandal broke.

October 26 to January 4, 2010: Trial delayed due to incomplete transcripts.

January 5, 2010: The case experiences its sixth delay as the defence complains of being "short-changed" by the prosecution following Chin's testimony that he actually used two phones to make the recordings instead of one. The matter is adjourned for the prosecution to provide a statement to the defence regarding the second phone.

January 11, 2010: The trial is again delayed as the defence asks for time to listen to the two hour-long recordings and the prosecution accuses the defence of employing a delay tactic.

January 15 - March 15, 2010: Trial delayed over tussle regarding the phone used by Chin to record the conversations, the admissibility of the recordings and Chin's role in a fraud matter uncovered at the National Housing Trust in January of that year. (The recordings are entered into evidence.)

April 14, 2010: Chin's evidence interrupted following the March 23 resumption after he testifies under cross-examination from Spencer's attorney, Patrick Atkinson, that Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, QC, had been taking notes at a meeting in November 2008 with Chin's lawyers. The defence's application is for Llewellyn to turn over her alleged notes.

May 3, 2010: Llewellyn obtains a stay from the Supreme Court preventing the continuation of the trial as she challenges Pusey's ruling that she turn over her notes. (Llewellyn subsequently withdrew the case.)

November 10, 2010: Justice Horace Marsh places a stop on the trial following an application by Llewellyn after Pusey declines to recuse herself from the trial on the grounds of perceived bias resulting from comments she had made. (The court eventually ruled against her.)

April 12, 2011: Pusey issues subpoena for Llewellyn to give evidence in the case as to what transpired at the meeting that resulted in charges against Chin being dropped.

March 26, 2012: Judicial Review Court sets aside the subpoena against Llewellyn.

May 4, 2012: Pusey appeals the ruling. (She was unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal in April 2013.)

April - December 2013: The trial continues on and off.

February 25, 2014: prosecution closes its case.

March 18, 2014: No-case submissions made by the defence.

March 24, 2014: Pusey upholds no-case submissions.

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