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What does it take to be a woman of destiny?

Paula Llewellyn — Part two

Friday, March 21, 2014    

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ONCE ajar, it is said, the door to the mystery of a woman is hard to shut again. The question is: Why, of all the eminent men and women in the judicial system, was Paula Vanessa Llewellyn, QC, chosen to be Jamaica's eighth director of public prosecutions (DPP) and only the first woman?

It is indeed a wondrous mystery how destiny reaches across oceans of time to appoint certain human beings to those rarified positions reserved for so few. And we, mere mortals that we are, may be pardoned for wondering if, once anointed, must they slavishly follow that trajectory upon which they are set long before their own awareness, until in time they arrive at their appointed moment.

When Paula Llewellyn was achieving success after success in prosecuting criminals as a young clerk of courts in Montego Bay, St James, it could have been construed as just the work of a very bright and enthusiastic lawyer. But we now know it was more.

In an especially memorable case in MoBay, she recalls the murder and rape of a household helper in bushes as she was going to work. The accused said he did not rape the helper and the doctor could not tell. Llewellyn got caught up in the drama of the moment.

"I picked up the underwear, which had one leg cut, and asked the jury: 'Do you believe she bought it like this?!" she remembers. "They took 10 minutes to convict."

Llewellyn left MoBay in 1986, after two years, updating her résumé to show her promotion to acting Crown Counsel in the Office of the DPP. The time in the western city had been well spent, and even a terrifying hold up by three masked gunmen one inglorious night had worked to her final advantage in the preparation for greater things to come.

Back in Kingston, the cases would come thick and fast and Llewellyn would face the toughest lawyers in the business. She is cautious to not oversell her success over the formidability of the opponents overcome, graciously saying only that: "I learned so much from them and I was able to grow with each victory or loss."

Prosecutor on fire

But Llewellyn's graciousness cannot mask the fact that she was a prosecuting attorney on fire. She blazed through the ranks of the ODPP, learning to relish working in the various courthouses; wading through mounds and mounds of documentation and interacting with the police at every level.

"It exposed me to the different styles of the lawyers and judges. The experience curve was quite fast and you had to toughen up. I was privileged to appear in the trial courts and Court of Appeal over the years with some of the best and brightest. I hold them as kernels of pearl in my memory," Llewellyn now reflects.

Every lawyer in this jurisprudence earnestly covets the title of Queen's Counsel, a sign of legal prowess and elite achievement. From each one she faced, Lewellyn gained in stature and favour with the ODPP. The QC list is formidable:

* P J Patterson

* Ian Ramsay

* Frank Phipps

* Winston Spaulding

* Lord Anthony Gifford

* Earl Witter

* Headley Cunningham

* Velma Hylton

* Jacqueline Samuels-Brown

* Patrick Atkinson

* K D Knight

* Howard Hamilton

* Ian Wilkinson

* Dr Lloyd Barnett

* Walter Scott

* Delroy Chuck

* Churchill Neita

* Glen Cruikshank

* A J Nicholson

* Berthan McCauley

End of whipping in Jamaica

Some cases were more memorable than others for their outcome as landmark cases. For example, the Errol Pryce case with Dr Lloyd Barnett in the Court of Appeal ended whipping, a cruel leftover from slavery and colonialism, as punishment in Jamaica.

She recalls that in a hard-fought murder case in which Patterson appeared, she had overzealously asked the jury to "stand firm in their deliberations" — a reference to a People's National Party election slogan. But Patterson, later to become prime minister, did not hold it against her.

"He's very wise and not given to emotion. I learnt a lot in that case, even though it ended in a hung jury," she recounts.

Patterson had seen how this young prosecutor came at him hard. He thought she might have been a little overzealous, but that would be tempered with time. He could see her as a huge asset to his firm Rattray, Patterson Rattray. When he next spoke with his partner, Carl Rattray, QC, Patterson broached the possibility of stealing her away from the ODPP.

"I was flattered, but I told them I wanted to remain in the public service, and that I loved being in the advocate court. They said they respected that and I moved on," Llewellyn relates.

In the intervening years, she had prosecuted many cases, some of which had captured the imagination of the country, and battled like a true champion. These included:

* The Sonia Jones case where she faced "the great" Frank Phipps and the soft-spoken but wily Garth McBean.

* The Bernard Chang case taking on Howard Hamilton and remembered for being the first case using DNA evidence. The accused pleaded guilty to murder.

* The Leroy Lamey case involving murder in the course or furtherance of terrorism.

* The Mary Lynch case facing Frank Phipps and Anthony Pearson, and in which the wife of a prominent banker was convicted of

his murder.

* The Joel Andem murder case facing A J Nicholson.

* The Kurt Mollison trial for the murder of the wife of former BoJ head G Arthur Brown. In this case, the Privy Council ruled that a juvenile must be kept at the court's pleasure in murder cases and not at the governor general's pleasure -- as used to be the case -- because it blurred the lines between the judiciary and the executive.

* The Trevor Bennett murder of RM Derrick Hugh, which decided that in Jamaica duress is not a defence

to murder.

* The Elvis Martin trial ending in conviction for the murder of an American screenwriter whose body was never found after being thrown into the sea at Shark's Rock.

* The Donald 'Zeeks' Phipps trial facing Churchill Neita, in a case of double murder. This case involved voice ID and cell site analysis.

* The Lloyd Lester 'Jim Brown' Coke case facing George Soutar and Tom Tavares-Finson in the murder of a man on a bus.

* The Lloyd Lester 'Jim Brown' Coke murder trial taking on Churchill Neita.

* The Bryan Bernal and Christopher Moore case taking on Ian Ramsay and Richard Small, along with other counsel.

* The Richard King and Leo Cox trial facing Ian Ramsay. This was a customs case regarded as a seminal case on joinder of offenders in a summary matter.

* The case of Gregory Isaacs for possession of cocaine. The singer was represented by Churchill Neita and was acquitted.

By the time she had come to this juncture, Llewellyn had become almost a household name as a legal gladiator wielding the law books like a mighty sword. But she was not unfeeling and did not regard those she had prosecuted as mere statistics.

Sonia Jones case was especially painful

"The Sonia Jones case was especially painful. I did my best as a prosecutor. But she was someone I knew, a prominent attorney and colleague. I also used to like to listen to her radio programme on KLAS-FM," Llewellyn recalls. Jones was tried for misappropriation of a client's funds. She died some time after leaving prison.

The Bernal case, in which the son of an outstanding diplomat was charged with attempting to export drugs in tins, was another heart-rending one. Llewellyn's parents knew the parents of the accused. The case ended in a conviction, which was upheld on appeal.

"You realised how awful relatives of the accused parents must feel, but you have to have a split screen approach as a prosecutor," she says, temporarily losing the famous Paula smile.

She confessed to having nightmares in the Mary Lynch case involving the bloody murder of the banking executive husband who was hacked to death by a jealous wife, and in which she had to visit the location and "know the case like the back of my hand". In the end it was the dental records that were used to identify the deceased, as only some of the skeletal remains were found.

Llewellyn, in the meantime, was developing a reputation as a workaholic. That came with more promotion to assistant DPP and then deputy DPP, one rung below the head honcho. She found great mentors in several outstanding attorneys and judges.

"My main mentor was Justice Norma McIntosh, who took me under her wings when I first came to the DPP. She was then an assistant director," says Lewellyn. "We went to circuit court together in St Catherine and St Mary. On the two first occasions, the courthouse burned down. On both occasions Justice Paul Harrison was the judge. People joked about it endlessly!"

There were other mentors and people she admired such as Ian Forte, QC; Glen Andrade, QC; and Kent Pantry, QC, all DPPs; Arlene Harrison; Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe; Justice Clarence Walker.

She found Andrade and Pantry to be very committed public servants who believed in being first-class prosecuting attorneys. Andrade was "extremely supportive and very loyal to his staff; he sought to foster talent and certainly facilitated my representation of the ODPP at several overseas seminars, such as a month-long comparative law seminar in Sweden and seminars/programmes in Dominica, Costa Rica and the USA. He believed in leading from the front", she says.

Pantry, like Andrade, was also a hard taskmaster and a renowned cross-examiner. "Under his stewardship, I was facilitated in being allowed to take up a scholarship at the Management Institute for National Development (MIND) where I did a Senior Public Sector Executive Management course, which trains permanent secretaries," she recalls.

She noticed how jealously both gentlemen guarded the independence of the Office of the DPP, which is enshrined in Section 94(6) of the Constitution, which is their only boss (and not the justice minister as I erroneously stated in the first instalment on Wednesday).

"They used the anecdotes of the exploits of past famous judges, prosecutors and defence counsel to mentor and to seek to guide Crown Counsel. They both believed in enlarging one's capacity as a prosecutor and, if you had any ability, you could look forward to being assigned to tough assignments that would force you to grow as

a professional.

"Certainly, under their stewardship, the concept of exercising your constitutional independence in the public interest was a mantra. Both men had different styles, but one thing was quite clear, as far as they were concerned: for you to be successful, you had to have not only competence and capacity, you had to be mentally tough," she says.

And so, finally, the moment had arrived. This was early 2008. The position of DPP had become vacant and the Government began the search for a new director. Llewellyn felt that she was not going to be more prepared for this position than she was at the time. Friends, colleagues and admirers thought so too. From the moment she had set her foot on the first rung of the ladder of success in the ODPP, she had not looked back.

Still, it was not going to be a walk in the park to the top job. No woman had been among the seven DPPs since the Office was established after Independence in 1962. And there was something else. The manner of appointing the DPP had just changed. Previously, the prime minister would recommend the person to the governor general. Now, candidates had to apply and go through a stringent process adopted by the Public Service Commission.

Llewellyn's résumé was impressive, but so too were those of the others competing for the job ODPP. When she saw the credentials of the five, she knew immediately that she was going to need every second and ounce of the training and experience she had amassed up till then.

SUNDAY: 'Dudus', the contractor general and Trafigura

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