Accused King Valley gangsters could know fate today

Accused King Valley gangsters could know fate today

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

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DESPITE the cloud of doubt raised by the defence over the credibility of the main witness in the ongoing King Valley Gang trial, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes yesterday said the court was not of the view that the evidence he gave was to be rejected.

The assertion came following the reappearance yesterday of the star prosecution witness in the final moments of the trial, which should have ended last week.

Defence lawyer Everton Bird, in his closing address last Friday, successfully argued that the star prosecution witness should be recalled by the court on the basis that he had unearthed a statement made by the witness to the police about an incident on June 15, 2018 which contradicted statements he had made in court about the same matter in January this year.

Bird questioned the credibility of the star witness who, over several days at the start of the trial in January when he testified via live video link from an undisclosed location, told the court that gang members were involved in the deadly lottery scamming scheme, committed murders and rapes in the course of robberies, and were also murderers for hire.

The witness, a former member of the gang, also said he had, in 2018, handed himself over to the police and decided to give evidence against them after they killed seven of his own family members, including his father, aunt, two uncles, a cousin, his sister, and an in-law, in seeking to pull him out of hiding.

Yesterday, the witness — reappearing by live video link from an undisclosed location — in facing further scrutiny from Bird, admitted that he might have made a “mistake” when confronted with the disparity between the statement he had given to the police in June of 2018 and the statement he made to the court in January this year at the start of the trial regarding a crime he said was committed by some members of the gang.

“Did you sign this statement as being true and correct. Was the statement [given on June 15, 2018] read back to you, or did you read it by yourself before you signed?” Bird asked.

“Yes, Sir. I read it by myself,” the main witness replied.

Said Bird: “Did you give this statement using the following words, '...The next place I took the police was the community name Herring Piece, where I showed them the place where Nalaugh's mother's house was shot up and someone killed..I was not there when it happened, I was in King's Valley at the time.' ”

The main witness replied: “There is a lot of things I have said, Sir. I know I said a lot of things, but it is the truth. Everything I said in all my statements are true.”

Justice Sykes interjected: “Do you remember when you were giving evidence some time ago you spoke about two times when they went to kill Nalaugh and you were present at one and not present at the other?”

“Yes, Sir,” the witness replied.

“Do you remember saying, 'I was not there when it happened, I was in King's Valley at the time'?” Justice Sykes asked.

“Actually, I was there the time they went to look for Nalaugh... Maybe I made a little mistake,” the witness replied.

“What the lawyer is saying to you is what you said in the statement is different from what you gave in evidence,” Justice Sykes explained.

“I don't agree, Sir,” the witness responded.

“Maybe some mistake make, I was talking fast, maybe some mistake,” he insisted when the judge probed further. “I was in King's Valley when Nalaugh was killed; that's why I am saying there was some mistake,” added the witness.

Speaking after the main witness was dismissed by the judge, Bird again slammed the credibility of the witness: “The fact that these discrepancies occurred in relation to his evidence, implicating my client and several others, and for him to now admit that he has told the police in the case that he was not at Nalaugh's mother's house would call his credibility heavily into question. His entire narrative would have been discredited by this contribution,” said the defence lawyer.

Yesterday, Justice Sykes, in his summation, noted that the evidence in the case came almost exclusively from the star witness with the exception of a caution statement from one of the accused in the case, Lindell Powell.

“There is no supporting evidence, no forensic evidence, no phone records, no evidence from the police or anyone, there were no reports from victims consistent with the robberies taking place or reports from the police saying persons reported being robbed,” he pointed out.

He, however, noted that this does not necessarily follow that the court is to reject all of the testimony by the main witness.

“The court does not accept the analysis by the defence that the evidence given by Mr [name removed] should not be accepted,” Justice Sykes said.

He however said the two accounts regarding the incident were “irreconcilable”.

“His explanation is that maybe he was speaking quickly and maybe some error was made by him or the police. The difficulty with that is that he has said he read over the statement. There is no evidence to suggest he is not literate. He has clearly spent some time in the classroom. He is not an idiot by any stretch of the imagination,” Justice Sykes said.

He said there was no principle that supports the thinking that the absence of corroboration for an accomplice's testimony equals no conviction. He further noted that in cases of the nature of the one now before the courts in which there are allegations of persons being part of criminal organisations, there may be evidence that is not expressed in the indictment before the court.

“It does not mean that the evidence of unindicted offences are not necessarily admissible,” the chief justice pointed out.

Later, in his summation, Justice Sykes noted there were at least two instances of evidence of crimes not falling in the indictment which was shown during the trial.

“From that standpoint the evidence, in my view, is admissible,” he said.

The sitting resumes this morning at 10 at which time the judge is expected to announce the verdict.

The trial by judge began on January 14 with nine men in the dock — three of whom have since been freed.

The remaining six — Carlington Godfrey, alias Tommy; Rannaldo McKennis, otherwise known as Ratty; Derval Williams, also called Lukie; Christon Grant, alias Ecoy; Lindell Powell, also called Lazarus; and Copeland Sankey, also known as Tupac — are charged in an indictment containing 11 counts on suspicion of being part of a criminal organisation, providing benefits to a criminal organisation, and conspiring to commit murder, rape, and robbery with aggravation from as early as 2013.

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