DERRICK Griffiths, 22, of a Text Lane address in Kingston, did not seem, on the evidence adduced in court, to have caused offence to anyone on the night of November 19, 1986 when he was brutally gunned down.
Two brothers — 32-year-old Garfield Peart, a mechanic, and 22-year-old labourer Andrew Peart, both of 26 Wildman Street in Kingston, were jointly charged with Griffiths' murder. A third accomplice to the crime, known only as "Groundfood" for whom the police had been searching, was found dead some time later. The court was told his body, when found, bore a tag: "Griffiths' murderer."
The bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Griffiths were unravelled in the Home Circuit Court before Justice Chester Orr (now retired) and a jury by one eyewitness, a 15-year-old boy, who at one point in his evidence was moved to tears at the memory of what he had witnessed, not to mention the death threats issued to him by each accused, according to his testimony.
The teenager withstood two full days of rigorous cross-examination from Counsel for Garfield Peart, Gayle Nelson, followed by further cross-examination from Delano Harrison, appearing for Andrew Peart.
The case for the prosecution was presented by then Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Garth McBean (now in private practice). Associated with him was Mrs Errar-Gayle (now deputy Public Defender)
Following the trial judge's summing up at the end of the case, the jury retired for almost two hours, then returned with a unanimous verdict of guilty as charged in respect of Andrew Peart. They were not unanimous in respect of the older Peart brother.
Further directions were sought by the jury regarding the law as it related to Garfield's presence at the murder scene that night. Having been so directed, the jury retired a second time to consider their verdict. They returned shortly after and also convicted Garfield Peart of the murder of Derrick Griffiths.
Asked if they had anything to say why the sentence should not be passed on them, only Garfield responded thus: "I don't wish to say anything."
The sentence of death was then pronounced on each accused.
The prosecution had put forward as part of its case, that it was Andrew Peart who had lured the deceased into the yard at 26 Wildman Street where he was murdered; that it was Andrew who started to wrestle with the deceased as if he were trying to throw him to the ground: and that Garfield, who was sitting on a chair in the yard with his hands in his lap, got up with a gun and started to "jook" the deceased on his body. Then some other men ran in with guns. Explosions were heard and later on, the body of the deceased was found in the yard.
Giving evidence, the 15-year-old student told the court he was standing by a bingo table watching the game that night. Griffiths, whom he knew well, was playing. He knew Griffiths as 'Bowler'; he was so-called because he was fat.
Then he saw Andrew Peart whom he also knew well, come to the bingo table and call Griffiths who left the bingo table and spoke with him. Griffiths, according to the young witness's testimony, came back and asked the teen to accompany him and all three went to Peart's yard at 26 Wildman Street.
At the gate to the premises, Griffiths gave the teenager $5 to buy him a soda at a bar across the street. But the teen did not get the flavour requested and returned to the gate but the other two men had already gone inside. One Horace Walker, a friend of his, came along and accompanied him inside the yard. There was no light.
The teenager told the judge and jury that on entering the premises he saw Andrew Peart wrestling with Derrick Griffiths as if he wanted to throw him to the ground. Garfield Peart was sitting in the yard on a chair.
Asked how long he knew Andrew Peart, the response was: "From I was a little boy growing up and him used to come to my sister and my mother yard." He said he knew Garfield for the same length of time. The witness told of hearing two explosions after which he said he and Horace Walker ran into a nearby passage. But, before he did so he saw Garfield "jook up" Griffiths all over his body with a gun.
He said he heard more explosions while he was in the passage; then he heard someone say: "Make sure! Make sure him dead!"
The shots were coming from the direction where Garfield and Andrew Peart were with the victim. Three other men with guns were with the Peart brothers. Shortly after, Andrew came to the passage asking: "Where di bwoy dem deh?" Having found them, Andrew ordered them to get up. They obeyed. Then the other four men came running into the passage. Andrew asked for a piece of cord. Handed a piece of electric cord, the teen described how Andrew Peart tied his hands behind him and bound his ankles.
The young witness told the judge and jury: "Mi seh to Andrew, you know mi mother, Andrew, and you know mi sister."
"Andrew say him don't know me mother dem; him don't know me mother and me sister. I told him, 'let mi go, Andrew; let mi gwaan."
Here, the teen broke down and started to cry. A brief moment was taken to allow him to regain his composure. Continuing, the witness related that when he made that request, Andrew Peart told him: "Fi stop mi noise before him kill me too and then him seh to me, that you think dem man joke fi kill; dem serious." After that, the witness said he stopped talking.
But then, according to the witness, Garfield came in and told him:" If I ever hear any noise in yah, you see, I come in here come kill you right now."
Andrew returned to the spot where the witness was and the teenager asked him: "Andrew, wha you ah go kill me for?"
"Him say mi fi stop call him name and him tell me him will kill me again if mi call him name one more time," was the response the teen recalled.
He then related how a man whom he did not know entered the yard at 26 Wildman Street at that juncture asking for Griffiths. He saw the man being pounced upon by Andrew Peart who stabbed him with a knife; he also saw Garfield Peart and the other men firing shots. The man ran from the premises, bawling "Murder! Murder!"
The court heard that later on, the five men — Andrew, Garfield and the other three men — entered the room in which the teenager and Horace Walker had been taken. The witness said they jumped through a window but not before one of them paused to ask: "What you going to do with this one?" indicating the teen.
Gathering his wits together, as the saying goes, the young man called out: "Police! Police ah come!" All five men ran away. He hopped up and kept hopping in an effort to come out of the yard and, as he said, he "fell and scrape up me pants knee".
Further examined by McBean, the witness told the court that although there was no light in the yard, he was able to see the faces of both accused because each of them came up closely to him and was talking to him for periods of 15 and 20 minutes respectively.
Cross-examined by Harrison, the witness was asked if everywhere inside the yard was dark. He said moonlight was shining inside. He agreed it was remembering the bad experience which he had on the night of June 24, 1986.
Detective Corporal Louis Brown of the Fletcher's Land Police Station CIB, who was on mobile patrol in Kingston Central that night, testified that he went to the scene and Acting Corporal Carlton Urquhart accompanied him. He said he saw some plants in the yard "trampled and crushed." Further up in the yard in the kitchen, he saw the body of the deceased. There were bloodstains on the face and blood on the abdomen area. There were abrasions and bruises all over the body and what appeared to be gunshot wounds over the abdomen area. About three feet from the area, he found two .38 spent cartridges. He went back to the trampled area and, aided by light, found four .38 empty cartridge casings.
Later that night, he saw the 15-year-old witness near the murder scene. He spoke to him and sent him to the Central Police Station. A statement was subsequently taken from him by Urquhart. Shortly thereafter, the police obtained warrants for the arrest of a man named 'Groundfood", as well as for Andrew and Garfield Peart.
In July 1986, Cpl Brown told the Court he saw Constable Gayle at the Central Police Station. Gayle told him something as a result of which he went to the lock-up. There he saw Andrew Peart. He told Peart he was investigating a case with regard to Derrick Griffiths; he had received certain information and as a result, he had a warrant of arrest for him.
Andrew Peart told him that he (accused) "was coming from the theatre with his girlfriend that night when he heard the gunshots coming from his yard at Wildman Street."
Accused said further: "I didn't see either accused; I didn't go there." Witness then read the warrant to Andrew Peart, arrested and charged him with the accused declaring 'Officer, ah frame dem frame me'."
On March 5, 1987, Cpl Brown recalled going to the Rollington Town Police Station where he saw Garfield Peart. He read the warrant to him, cautioned him, whereupon the accused also said: "Boss, ah try dem ah try fi frame me."
He also denied having a conversation with the teenaged prosecution witness at any time about 'man going do him things' if the two accused were sentenced.
Calvin Haye, District Constable attached to the Central Police Station told the Court that he was on his way from Hanover to Kingston on the afternoon of July 14, 1986 when on reaching Clayton Heights, St Catherine, he saw the accused, Andrew Peart who he knew. Haye said he told Peart he had information that he had been involved in a murder at Wildman Street and told him to get into the police vehicle. Andrew Peart refused, so Haye had to use force. He took the accused to the CIB Office at Central Station and handed him over to an officer there. Later that afternoon Haye saw Cpl Brown and spoke to him.
On the way to the station, the district constable testified, Andrew Peart told him: "Mr Haye, if is a murder dem want me for, is not me do it, because when it happen me did down ah mall with my girlfriend."
In an unsworn statement from the dock, Andrew Peart told the judge and jury that he resided at Lot 6, St John's Road, Spanish Town but he sometimes stayed with his sister, Christine at 26 Wildman Street. On the night in question, between 7:00 and 8:00 pm, the accused said, he went downtown to meet his girlfriend and they went to the harbour. They remained there until 10 to 11:00 pm. On their way home, on reaching Wildman Street, he saw a group of people who told him some gunmen just kill a man in "my sister's yard and somebody wanted to see me so I got afraid and turned back and go to my mother's home in Spanish Town."
He continued: "I didn't have anything against Griffiths; I never really knew him... I did not take part in such acts with a gun that night. I never stab nor kill anybody that night. The reason why they try to frame me is because the man died in a yard where I frequent. "X" (the sole eyewitness) is a direct liar. I am totally innocent of this charge."
Garfield Peart, in his unsworn statement to the court, said that he resided at Blackfield, McIntyre Lands and his child's mother lived at 26 Wildman Street. On the day of the incident he went by his babymother's house and had dinner; she left her two-year-old daughter with him. He decided to see a film at Gaiety Theatre so he left the baby with a neighbour next door, and went to tell the babymother — Pamela Walker — his plans. She was then selling 'drop-pan' at the corner of Rum Lane and Sutton Street.
Having watched the film, he was inside the theatre until sometime after 9:00 pm with one Pitter, Claudette and Jack who lived in the same yard, and some other fellows -- Wray, Glendon and Baboo. A man came and called him outside. There he saw his baby's mother and she told him that shooting was taking place up at the house. He said he went back inside the theatre, spoke to his friends and they all rushed outside. Together with the baby mother, they went to Wildman Street; at the corner of Wildman and Sutton streets he saw a large crowd. He also saw about eight to nine police vehicles and he discovered that somebody had died in his yard.
According to Garfield, he went back to Sutton Street where his sister had a bar. Everybody was talking about what had happened and a lot of people in the yard were scared. Later on, he went home to McIntyre Lands and he went back to work at the Carib Cement Company with his identification card pinned to his chest. He said he travelled on public passenger vehicles with hundreds of people every day.
The accused told the court: "I have no quarrel or no reason to kill 'Bowla'. I would not kill a man in my baby-mother's yard where I frequent every day."
He labelled the main prosecution witness -- the teenager -- "a notorious liar" and told the court that the first time he saw the mother of the witness was at the Gun Court hearing. He did not know the witness's sister; he had never been to their house. In fact, he added: "Yesterday is the first I know him."
He named two 'witnesses' -- Claudette Brown and Pamela Walker -- both of 26 Wildman Street in Kingston.
Brown testified that she had lived at that address for a number of years. She was at the show that night with Garfield and the others. She did not know the deceased but she was accustomed to see him pass her gate. When she went to live there, and this was about 1984, she thought Andrew lived at his mother's yard but she would sometimes see him there at night; also when she went to live there, Garfield Peart and his baby's mother were living there.
No light has been in the yard from she lived there, the witness deponed.
Pamela Walker told the court she lived at 26 Wildman Street with Garfield Peart. He was her baby's father. She had been living there since 1983. Andrew Peart also lived there. On the night in question, she testified, after she was finished selling, she heard shots fired. This was between 9:00 and 10:00 o'clock and people were running towards her. Someone spoke to her. As a result, she hastened to the Gaiety Theatre and had someone call Garfield. He came outside and spoke to her. He went back inside, then returned with Claudette, Wray and Baboo. All of them went towards Wildman Street. She saw a police car at her gate.
Garfield turned back, the witness related. She went up the street, went over to the yard but did not go inside. She could not see inside the yard, she said; no electric lights were in the yard, they had to use lamps. The man who died that night was unknown to her. Under cross-examination by Gayle Nelson, the witness said she could not recall whether the moon was shining.
The convicted Peart brothers later exhausted all avenues of appeal, and their convictions and sentences were affirmed by the Court of Appeal.
Some years later, following an uprising at the St Catherine District Prison, three prison warders were arrested and charged with murder, arising from the death of an inmate. The star witness for the prosecution was none other than Andrew Peart.
After a comprehensive cross-examination by Gayle Nelson for the defence of two of the prison warders, the entire fabric of the prosecution's case was compromised. That case ended in an acquittal for the three prison warders.
Garfield Peart's sentence of death was later commuted to one of life imprisonment and it is reported he has since been released from prison.
Andrew Peart is still behind bars.
NEXT WEEK: HOW STEVEN GRANT WAS MURDERED
Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore 'Dick' Hibbert, rated as one of the top detectives of his time. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org