Detective accused of fabricating story due to lack of evidence
The lead investigator in the July 20, 2020 murder of Tonia McDonald in Portland claimed on Thursday that he visited Oscar Barnes, a suspect in the case, at a lock-up on August 7, 2020, to ask him if he got through to an attorney.
The detective sergeant claimed that the visit spiralled into the suspect allegedly giving the policeman a statement despite being told that he was not obliged to do so since his attorney was not present.
Barnes, along with Portland businessman Everton “Beachy Stout” McDonald are on trial in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston for the murder. Tonia was McDonald’s second wife.
The cop said that when he arrived at Cross Roads Police Station in St Andrew where Barnes was being held, he escorted Barnes, who was not handcuffed, from his cell to a private room where the suspect allegedly made certain utterances.
The policeman’s claim puzzled Barnes’ attorney, Vincent Wellesley, who could not understand why the cop had to take his client into a private room to ask one simple question.
Wellesley on Thursday sought to bore more holes in the detective sergeant’s case, picking up from where he left off on Wednesday when he got the cop to admit to the seven-member jury that he had no physical evidence to tie Barnes to the murder.
The policeman said he did not immediately pose the question about an attorney to Barnes when he exited the cell, because he wanted to respect his privacy.
“On August 7, 2020 when I went to the Cross Roads Police Station, my mind was not yet made up to charge Mr Barnes, but I was considering to charge him. I had the intention to question Mr Barnes, to find out if he made contact with his attorney. I brought him to a room. While we were walking to the office I didn’t ask him anything. When he said no in the office, I didn’t return him to the cell right away because he went on to make certain utterances. I cautioned him and he gave me a story and I recorded it in my notebook. I didn’t ask him if he understood the caution because it is clear language. If he had asked what it meant, I would have told him but he didn’t ask,” the cop said.
That prompted a steamy rebuttal by Wellesley, who Judge Chester Stamp had to call to on numerous occasions for shouting at the witness and calling him a liar. He accused the detective of cooking up the statement, because he was trying to tie Barnes to the murder in some way, seeing that other evidence was non-existent.
Wellesley pressed the cop to find out why he never sought duty counsel for Barnes instead of just writing down what he said.
The policeman responded, “If a person makes utterances implicating himself, that is when I would seek duty counsel. He did not say anything to implicate himself, but I believed he might have known something that could assist the investigation. He was, at that point, considered a suspect and not a witness. The only evidence is what Mr Barnes said to me, which I wrote in my notebook.”
Wellesley asked the cop if he got Barnes to sign the statement he gave. The policeman said ‘No’.
Wellesley asked the detective sergeant, if a woman constable was really present when Barnes gave the alleged statement, why didn’t he have her sign it as a witness.
He also accused the witness of making a deal with another man so that that man’s son could be freed from police custody, while Barnes stayed in jail.
“The reason you didn’t get a statement from woman constable Brown is because it didn’t happen. The only reason you came up with the story that Mr Barnes said all of these things to you is because you had no evidence against him,” the attorney said.
Earlier in the trial, the detective sergeant said that after he cautioned Barnes, the suspect said, “Mi coulda save ‘Sassy’ (Tonia’s nickname). Mi know somebody did a go dead. Even Thursday before she dead, mi deh a di same spot where you picked me up, and him [Minott] circle mi and said he want two 9mm guns to buy. Mi seh to him seh a Manchioneal dem things deh deh. Mi nuh know him and him nuh know me neither. Him seh a Annotto Bay him come from and right deh so, him start fi squeal out everything”.