Crown insists Reggae Girl killed in cold blood, defence says witnesses not credible
The prosecution on Tuesday urged jurors to find quality analyst Rushelle Foster guilty of murder in the 2019 stabbing death of national senior women’s footballer Tarania “Plum Plum” Clarke, saying the accused had “deliberately” painted the Reggae Girl as a “jealous, controlling and violent” lover to mask the fact that she killed her in cold blood.
The prosecutor, in her closing address, hammered home the testimony of the sole eyewitness who was the first to speak during the trial which began on Monday, January 8, 2024 in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.
That eyewitness had said on the day in question (October 31, 2019), Foster and Clarke were in an altercation over a phone and that Foster was “on top of her voice” but Clarke was not confrontational.
That account is counter to that of Foster’s who, on Monday this week, in an unsworn statement delivered amidst tears, insisted that she had acted in self-defence and would have been the one to die if the enraged footballer, who was fuming over the fact that she had called it quits on their “toxic” seven-month sexual relationship, had got hold of the weapon used to stab her.
At the end of that encounter Clarke, a rising star in the sporting arena, lay dead on the ground at Limelight Plaza in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew. Foster said she was the one who ran to the Half-Way-Tree Police Station to get help for Clarke after passers-by refused to assist.
But according to the Crown, that was all an act.
“She (eyewitness) demonstrated how Miss Foster was behaving. She indicated that she was angry, she was heated. She indicated that she heard when Miss Foster said, ‘mi a call yuh and yuh naw ansa mi’ and that Clarke tried to calm her down,” the prosecutor said on Tuesday.
That eyewitness had testified that instead of calming down, Foster tried to wrestle the phone from Clarke, who was trying to delete what she had from the phone and said “Wait nuh Rushelle, yuh nuh si mi a delete something”.
The eyewitness said Foster, who by this time had pulled a knife, stabbed at the hand the footballer was using to delete the material from the phone and then stabbed her in her left side.
The witness told the court that when Clarke gasped, “Yuh nuh si yuh stab mi”. Foster said, “So what, mi wi do it agen”, raised her hand and stabbed her a second time.
The witness said the footballer, on a shocked laugh, said, “Yuh nuh si yuh stab mi”, took three steps and fell into Foster’s arms.
The prosecutor wasted no time in pointing out to the jury that Foster, who could have given sworn testimony or remained silent, chose to give an unsworn statement from the dock which meant she could not be questioned by the Crown nor the judge.
“She chose to sit in the docks and say what she wanted to say. Miss Foster is building as she goes along, she let us know she was in an intimate relationship with Miss Clarke and that Plum Plum wanted a serious relationship. She painted a picture that Plum Plum was this controlling person, jealous and violent…and this violent person she went to meet. She built her case as she went along. No mention [was made by Foster’s defence team of her claims that] she got two boxes to the face or kicks from the knees. Use your everyday senses,” the prosecutor pointed out in trashing elements of Foster’s unsworn statement.
“She failed to tell you seh annoh one stab she give har, a two…you saw how that stab went into her, that was no falling back, she wants us to believe it was an accident. That was no accident,” the prosecutor said.
In declaring that Foster “can’t be believed” as her story kept “changing”, the prosecutor said, “Yes, there was jealousy, she was jealous and to make it worse Plum Plum a delete things she can’t see. You heard how many times [the witness told the court] that Plum Plum said ‘mind yuh stab mi’ and she said ‘so what if mi dweet’.
“She deliberately and intentionally did it. This is no accident. Accident is something that is out of your control, unforeseen…during the entire incident all Tarania had in her hand was the phone…she came with her self-defence but she was not under any attack. No threat was there to her life that warranted her pulling a knife. The constant thing in all of it was, she wanted the phone to see what Tarania up to…she was jealous,” the prosecutor said further.
In pointing out that Foster, in her unsworn statement, made several assertions that her legal team did not raise or examine any of the witnesses on, the prosecutor said, “She made it up as she went along, you are hearing all kinds of things for the first time from her. I will let you know, on the 31st of October 2019, Miss Foster was the jealous one, Miss Foster attacked Tarania Clarke, she stabbed her twice but she only mentioned once”.
A consultant forensic pathologist who had examined Clarke’s body said the then 20-year-old died from “haemorrhage and shock” from a stab wound to the chest which punctured a lung. The stab was one of two wounds the footballer received. The first, which was inflicted to the left upper anterior chest, penetrated the underlying tissues and perforated the upper lobe of the left lung. The expert said the second stab to the left mid-anterior abdomen penetrated underlying tissues and ended in the muscles of the lateral abdominal wall. The consultant forensic pathologist said haemorrhaging was seen in the tissue of the stab wound.
On Tuesday, Foster’s defence team urged the jury to acquit their client, arguing that the witnesses called by the prosecution were not credible and that the sole eyewitness had an interest to serve as she was the friend of a cousin of Clarke’s.
According to lead attorney in the matter Courtney Rowe, the account of that eyewitness was suspect as she, instead of going to the police the night of the incident, went home and did not contact any of Clarke’s relatives to say what she had seen. He further claimed that the witness was only able to testify of the events because she got details from social media and news reports.
In dismissing the testimonies of two justices of the peace and the police witnesses brought by the Crown, Rowe said the statements of all the individuals, including that of the lead investigator, contained glaring inconsistencies and had been doctored. According to Rowe, his client could not be declared guilty of murder since murder, by definition, “must be deliberate and unlawful with intent”. Furthermore, he said she could not even be found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter as his client was “acting in self-defence”.
During the address by the prosecution, Clarke, clad in full black, glared at the attorney, her face stony when the prosecutor told the jury that the footballer had posed no threat to her. At other moments during that address the 23-year-old sat, arms folded, one crossed leg atop the other shaking furiously.
Supreme Court judge Justice Leighton Pusey, who presided over the matter with the seven-member jury, will, on Thursday, deliver his summation in the matter. The jury will then retire to consider their verdict.