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Kartel attorney takes issue with another police press release

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 11, 2014    

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HEAD of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communications Unit, Deputy Superintendent Steve Brown, was hauled before the High Court yesterday during the Vybz Kartel murder trial after defence attorney Tom Tavares-Finson complained that Brown had not heeded a warning to be careful with the wording of press releases issued by the unit.

Tavares-Finson requested that Justice Lennox Campbell summon Brown to court to explain the wording of a release sent out on Friday, which stated that hoodlums had attempted to firebomb the house of a police sergeant who is a main witness for the prosecution in the case.

Tavares-Finson fumed that Justice Campbell had asked a senior policeman last month to inform Brown that the wording of a previous release inferred that the vandals behind the cutting of fibre-optic cables belonging to two telecommunications firms were acting on behalf of individuals involved in a high-profile case.

However, he said the same words were used on the weekend when describing the police sergeant as being "a witness in a high-profile case that is now before the courts".

This, the attorney said, was prejudicial against his client and the other accused men.

Brown arrived at court about an hour after the summons was issued. He was then informed by Justice Campbell that the State had invested significant financial and human resources in the trial and all efforts should be made to preserve the integrity of the case.

"It doesn't take a lot of detective work to find out that this is the case. The court has to balance between the right to freedom of speech and the rights of the persons on trial. I don't want this 'high-profile case'. It is a charade. My role is to ensure that when persons come before the courts in this country they get their constitutional right, which is a fair trial," Justice Campbell said sternly.

Brown replied that the release was not aimed at the Vybz Kartel trial, which brought chuckles and giggles of sarcasm from the attorneys representing Vybz Kartel and his four co-accused.

"We made mention of a case before the courts. This is not the only high-profile case before the courts. You have the light bulb one, ATL, Mr Forbes and Mr Bicknell, we said it is a high-profile case and somebody picked on a particular case," Brown said.

Head of the Flying Squad, Senior Superintendent Cornwall 'Bigga' Ford, was also re-summoned to the court to explain quotes attributed to him in an article which appeared on the weekend.

The article spoke to the police implementing tighter policies as they relate to the seizure of cellular phones and other exhibits from suspects and crime scenes.

"Is it correct to say that, in that article you spoke to the JCF establishing a procedure regarding cellphones taken from suspects and at crime scenes?" Tavares-Finson asked.

"We already have a procedure," Ford replied.

"What was the nature of the interview?" the attorney asked.

"The nature of the interview was that phones were being used at the Flying Squad and other units, and if there were any new procedures regarding best practices to prevent it happening," Ford replied.

"Again!" Tavares-Finson interjected.

"You spoke to new steps being taken regarding standard procedures across the board?" Tavares-Finson continued.

"Yes," Ford answered.

"Once phones are taken from a suspect they are handled by one person?"

"Yes," Ford replied.

No-case submissions were also made on behalf of Vybz Kartel, Kahira Jones and Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell in the absence of the jury by attorneys Christian Tavares-Finson, Pierre Rodgers and Miguel Lorne, respectively.

Earlier in the day, the court heard the final part of the cross-examination of the prosecution's star witness by Rodgers.

The court has also issued a subpoena for Public Defender Earl Witter to appear in court tomorrow at the request of Tavares-Finson.

The trial is expected to continue this morning with no-case submissions being made for the other two accused -- André St John and Shane Williams.

The five men are charged with the alleged murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams, who police said was killed at a house owned by Kartel in Havendale, St Andrew, on August 16, 2011.

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