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Defence hacks away at prosecution's case in Al Miller trial

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014    

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THE defence in the trial of Rev Al Miller continued its systematic hacking away at the prosecution's case, presenting on Friday a letter it hopes will give credence to the claim that the clergyman was acting on instruction when he was caught transporting fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke on June 22, 2010.

The letter, read to the court by Queen's Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown during her cross-examination of retired police superintendent Wrenford Robinson in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, was published in the two daily newspapers before Coke's apprehension.

The letter was a public appeal from Miller to Coke asking him to turn himself in. "I ask you to come forward now and help create change," part of the letter read.

But more important is the following line of the letter that had not been disputed publicly by the police or any other authority after publication:

"Be assured that I and others will do everything to ensure your safety and we have the commitment of the authority."

Evidence was given by Sergeant Winston Radcliffe at the start of the trial on Thursday that Miller told the police, when he was held with Coke on Mandela Highway, that he was taking the former Tivoli Gardens don to the US Embassy in Kingston, where officers were waiting for him.

Miller is being tried before RM Simone Wolfe-Reece on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The defence is also claiming that prior to Coke's apprehension, Miller had met with outgoing Police Commissioner Owen Ellington and now retired Deputy Superintendent Jevene Bent about helping with the apprehension of Coke, who went on the run during the May 2010 police/military operation in Tivoli Gardens.

While on the lam, Coke reportedly said he didn't want to surrender to the local police for fear that he would suffer the same fate as his father, Lester Lloyd Coke (also known as Jim Brown), who died in a fire that gutted his prison cell at the General Penitentiary on February 23, 1991, while he awaited extradition to the United States.

Coke is currently serving a 23-year sentence in the US following his extradition to that country a day after his apprehension.

This had not been Miller's first interaction with the Coke family where law enforcement authority is concerned. Following the Tivoli operation, Miller was instrumental in taking in Coke's sister, Sandy, on June 4, after she was named as a person of interest. She was later released without charge.

A week prior, Miller was also responsible for taking in Leighton 'Livity' Coke, Dudus' brother. He was also listed as a person of interest and was later tried on allegation that he fired at the police during the Tivoli operation, in which 73 civilians and members of the security forces were killed. He was acquitted.

On Friday, Samuels-Brown asked Robinson, who worked at the Transnational Crime and Narcotic Division before his retirement, if he was aware of Miller's letter, but he said 'no'.

Robinson testified that a vast amount of the police force's resources was employed in the hunt for Coke.

Another cop, Deputy Superintendent Everald Spencer, who is currently assigned to Transnational Crime, testified under cross-examination by Samuels-Brown that the police's work is made easier when suspects are brought in. He said suspects are usually brought in by family members, a justice of the peace or a pastor.

He said, too, that he's aware of a unit within the Jamaica Constabulary Force that works directly with personnel at the US Embassy to apprehend fugitives.

He testified also that if a person wants to surrender directly to the US, he or she can do so.

He testified that great effort had been made to apprehend Coke prior to him being held with Miller.

Samuels-Brown's line of questioning seems to suggest that the police tapped Miller for help when their efforts to apprehend Coke failed.

Robinson was called by the prosecution to give evidence that he had served on Coke the arrest warrant that was given to him by Spencer. The warrant was served at the Jamaica Defence Force headquarters in Kingston.

The trial continues on September 10.

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