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Accused cop’s fate could be decided today

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012    

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JUSTICE Lloyd Hibbert yesterday started his summation in the murder trial of ex-constable Rushon Hamilton, bringing the case a step closer to jurors.

If Hibbert’s projection last week is met, he could complete his summing up and Hamilton’s fate could be decided today.

Hibbert’s summation followed the address by senior prosecutor Lisa Palmer-Hamilton, who urged jurors to reject Hamilton’s case and return a verdict of guilty.

Hamilton has been on trial for the past four weeks for the murder of 14-year-old Jhaneel Goulbourne, who was abducted from her Harbour View, St Andrew home on October 24, 2008, following the filing of a complaint that led to Hamilton being charged with carnal abuse.

She has not been seen since.

Last week, Hamilton said in an unsworn statement from the prisoner’s dock that he did not have sex with Goulbourne and that he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

He claimed that he was being set-up. His legal team subsequently presented a prison witness who testified that two of the prosecution’s main witnesses told him in February 2009, while he was an inmate at the Horizon Remand Centre, that they were “going to plot a story” against Hamilton.

Yesterday, Hibbert told jurors that they are to equally weigh the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defence. He said they were entitled to draw inference from the evidence presented but cautioned that the inferences drawn must be reasonable.

He also warned the panel against giving in to speculation or allowing sympathy for either the defendant or the victim or prejudice to play a role in their deliberations.

Regarding Hamilton’s statement from the prisoner’s dock, Hibbert said that it was his right to not take the witness stand but told jurors that they should bear in mind that Hamilton did not speak on oath and that his statement wasn’t subject to cross-examination.

Just before Hibbert started his summation, Palmer-Hamilton, in her address to the jurors, pointed out what she said were flaws in the defence case, while highlighting “the threads” in the prosecution’s case which she said proved Hamilton’s guilt.

A straight-faced Hamilton sat with his eyes fixed on the attentive jurors throughout.

Palmer-Hamilton described as a “charlatan” and a man with “delusions of grandeur” the defence witness who said that two prosecution witnesses (witness A and B) had told him in February 2009 about plotting a story against Hamilton.

She said that witness B had already given his statement to police the day after Goulbourne was abducted and that witness A’s statement was already given before he met the defence witness in lockup.

Witness A had testified that Hamilton confessed to him about killing the teen and witness B had testified that Hamilton said he was going to “tek whey” the girl.

The defence witness testified last week that he came forward to give his evidence after listening to Nationwide Radio on October 1 and hearing Hamilton’s name and those of witnesses A and B being called. He said it was his first time hearing about the trial on the radio.

But Palmer-Hamilton told the jurors that the man could not have heard witness A’s name because witness A gave his evidence on October 3, two days after the newscast.

The defence witness had also said that witness A told him that witness B was going to tell the police that Hamilton had approached him to dispose of a body. But Palmer-Hamilton told the jurors that the witness listened to the news and got his facts mixed up because it was the statement of Kemar Johnson that spoke to Hamilton approaching him to find a place to dump a body.

“It does not add up. It is clear that [the witness] came here and fabricated his story with the hope that you may believe him,” she said.

She also explained to jurors why his evidence that Goulbourne’s family would pay witnesses A and B to make up the story against Hamilton could not have been true.

Regarding Hamilton’s alleged confession, the prosecutor said there was a culture in jail where inmates speak of their crimes among themselves.

Among the “common thread” that Palmer-Hamilton said pointed to the accused man’s guilt, is the evidence of a white Toyota van (maybe a Hiace) with tinted windows and sliding door — and a dark complexion man, who sported a tam and carried a gun.

Palmer-Hamilton reminded jurors that the evidence is that Goulbourne was abducted by a man of dark complexion, who wore a tam, and placed her in a Toyota van with tinted windows and a sliding door.

Hamilton, according to Johnson’s statement, was also seen in such a vehicle in St Mary, along with a man of dark complexion sporting a tam. Johnson said that Hamilton introduced the man as his “badman friend” and described him as a “real killer”.

Witnesses also testified to seeing Hamilton driving a similar vehicle and evidence was also given that Hamilton led the police to that similar make vehicle when he was arrested.

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