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Laughter as prosecutor, witness square off at Kartel trial

BY PAUL HENRY Coordinator — Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 17, 2014    

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DEFENCE handwriting expert Karl Major on Friday maintained, under cross-examination, that the key prosecution witness was the one who wrote a letter to the public defender which brings into question his own statements to the police in the Vybz Kartel murder trial.

Major, a retired senior superintendent of police who was in charge of the Questioned Document section of the Government Forensic Laboratory, said that "all handwriting exhibits natural variation".

"If you sign your signature twice it will not be the same," Major said in response to a question from senior prosecutor Jeremy Taylor about variation in certain letters in the main witness' signature.

Major had been asked by defence attorney Tom Tavares-Finson to examine a photocopy of statements given to the police by the prosecution's star witness and to compare the handwriting to a letter the defence claims was written by the witness and sent to the Office of the Public Defender.

Earlier in the trial in the Home Circuit Court, Tavares-Finson had suggested to the witness that he had written the letter in which he said he was forced by the police to give evidence and that he had, in fact, seen Clive 'Lizard' Williams after the night of August 16, 2011 — the day the police alleged the five men beat him to death.

The witness has denied writing the letter.

Friday, before Major's return to the witness box, Justice Lennox Campbell ordered the prosecution to obtain a statement from a handwriting expert who had examined the said letter on behalf of the prosecution.

Campbell made the order after Tavares-Finson told the court that Taylor had failed to provide a report from the expert.

Tavares-Finson complained that the expert had examined the letter for half-hour, but a report was never presented.

Taylor then admitted that the process was abandoned, noting that the prosecution did not bother to use the expert and that he had told Tavares-Finson that the expert was available to him.

But Tavares-Finson responded that he was never given the contact for the expert.

That issue out the way, Taylor resumed his cross-examination of the witness, picking up where he had left off the previous day on the issue variation in certain letters.

Taylor's cross-examination of the colourful witness provided much laughter for the court as the witness chided the prosecutor throughout for asking him questions about a document "you haven't read", for turning his back "and spinning around" while posing a question and for asking questions that the elderly witness felt he answered sufficiently.

On more than one occasion, Taylor apologised to the witness and, regarding his "spinning around", said that was the only time he got to exercise.

Major had the court in stitches at one point when he noted that "today is Valentine's" when he was talking about a report apparently made on a previous Valentine's day.

"If you can show me a little love," Taylor said to the witness, whom he found it hard to pry anything from.

The courtroom erupted into laughter and the defence attorneys cleared their throat.

Earlier, Major elicited laughter when he scolded Taylor for breaking his concentration.

Taylor had told him to look at a document and to refresh his memory about his analysis of the letter 'h' in the key witness' signature.

Major had been holding up the document and attempting to explain when Taylor told him that he shouldn't be waving the document around as it wasn't in evidence. At that point, the expert witness, obviously perturbed — paused, 'cut his eyes', removed his glasses from the tip of his nose, and stared at Taylor.

Justice Campbell intervened at that point, explaining to Major that he had to keep the document out of the view of the jurors.

Taylor then asked him to continue. But instead, he looked at Taylor, pointed and exclaimed, "You broke my concentration," as laughter erupted in the court.

The trial continues today.

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