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Coke faces uphill battle

Federal law heavily stacked against accused, says defence attorney

By HAROLD G BAILEY Observer correspondent

Monday, June 28, 2010    

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NEW YORK, USA – Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, the former Tivoli Gardens don who was extradited here last Thursday to face drug and weapons charges, faces some daunting challenges in his upcoming trial, a legal source here said.

Prominent Jamaican-born defence attorney Wayne Golding, in outlining how the system works and what Coke will be up against, said Federal guidelines and laws "are strict and heavily weighted in favour of the government".

As proof, he pointed to the over 90 per cent conviction rate as most accused end up entering into a plea bargain rather than fight their case.

He said that Coke would face an initial hearing (the discovery process) during which he would have the chance to enter a plea.

Golding said the plea is almost always 'not guilty', as the burden of proving criminal conduct will be on the government.

The attorney said that one of the disadvantages which Coke -- who could face life imprisonment -- faces, is that he will not be able to question his accusers prior to the trial date, and may likely not know until a mere three days before who the witnesses against him are.

He said that the fact that the evidence against Coke was likely obtained through a plea bargain from persons who are already serving time in exchange for a lesser punishment could also be viewed as a disadvantage.

Coke will face a jury trial, which to some in the Jamaican community here means that he has no chance of a fair trial.

But despite the challenges facing Coke, the defence attorney said that in his view "the accused will be given a fair trial".

He said that because of the strict Federal guidelines, all evidence at the government's disposal will have to be turned over to Coke's defence attorneys. Golding said such evidence include any recordings, transcripts and video evidence.

Addressing the matter of a plea bargain, Golding said there are incentives in the system.

Without elaborating, Golding said that there is a feeling within legal circles here that Coke may have a lot to say should he decide to enter into a plea bargain.

Still, the attorney cautions that the system has its pitfalls. He said it depends on the "quality of the defence Coke will be able to afford".

Golding said Coke will be provided a public defender if he is unable to afford legal representation.

But even under a plea bargain settlement, Golding said Coke could still receive the maximum sentence under what is known as minimum mandatory sentence.

He said that under this system, a judge has no choice but to impose the full sentence, especially as it relates to the charge of illegally dealing in firearms.

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