Witter knocks Government's handling of Coke extradition request

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator, Crime/Court Desk

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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FORMER Public Defender Earl Witter, QC, yesterday said that the "cataclysmic" events of May 2010 wouldn't have occurred had the Government's handling of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke's extradition not been so protracted.


"...undoubtedly, I feel, the events of May 2010 would not have taken place and our country would have been spared this great disaster in which so many people lost their lives," Witter said in response to questions from Tivoli Commission Chairman Sir David Simmons.


"I make no comment... of all the legal steps taken by the Government and how they handled it, but it is plain enough that had they not resorted to all of that -- the events of May 2010 shouldn't have taken place. I think that is self-evident," he added.


He said, too, that "it is self-evident that the period between August 2009 when the US sent the extradition request and May 2010, when the decision was finally taken to initiate extradition proceedings against Coke, gave men loyal to Coke the time to fortify the community.


The Bruce Golding-led Government had gone through the court in order to oppose Coke's extradition on grounds of breaches of his constitutional rights.


Earlier, under questioning from Deborah Martin, one of the attorneys for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Witter said he wasn't directed, on May 25, 2010, by residents in Tivoli Gardens to any spots in pathways where shootings took place that same morning.


He also said that he got no report from members of his office about anyone being shot and killed on May 26.


Before asking the questions, Martin pointed out to Witter that residents had given evidence in the enquiry that police killed unarmed civilians on those days.


Witter had testified on Monday that he went into Tivoli on May 25 from about 10:00 am, and remained there touring the area until almost 5:00 pm. He said during that time he heard no gunfire.


Martin told him that two Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) witnesses -- Soldier 1 and Soldier 3 -- had testified that unarmed men were murdered by police personnel on May 24 and that reports had been made.


But Witter said he wasn't informed of that. He said he became aware of it through newspaper reports of that particular evidence.


Yesterday, Peter Champagnie, one of the attorneys for the JDF, started his cross-examination of Witter.


He tried to poke holes in Witter's evidence on Monday that the JDF wasn't co-operative with the probe by the public defender of the conduct of members of the security forces during the operation.


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