Delays result in adjournment
MONTEGO BAY, St James — An effort by the defence to recall a witness who previously testified on behalf of the Crown was among the factors that resulted in a stalemate and early adjournment of the Shineka Gray murder trial in the St James Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Following an application by defence attorney Leroy Equiano, who is representing Gregory Roberts, Supreme Court judge, Justice Bertram Morrison adjourned the case for 10:00 am Wednesday to give the defence time to secure an expert in photo image.
“Madam foreman and jurors, regrettably…, the defence has to be given an opportunity to present, and counsel has asked to address the case by calling another witness who is not available today. I am going to give him that opportunity, okay? So we are going to take the break now and resume tomorrow,” stated Justice Morrison.
The judge made it clear that he expects the trial to begin promptly and move swiftly along. He has, in the past, expressed concern about the pace of the trial which has so far lasted seven weeks.
Tuesday’s comments came after a stalemate between the defence and the judge which prevented the case from moving forward.
Equiano wanted the court to grant permission for the defence team to make a visual presentation which, he said, would give the jury a better understanding of his points.
However, Justice Morrison indicated that he did not see how this would help the jury without prejudicing the case. He suggested that Equiano could express himself without showing a visual presentation, which, he said, must be tied to the evidence in the case.
However, Equiano continued to press on with a sports analogy adding, “If I tell you something, you will never understand it until you see it.”
Equiano then moved on by telling the court that the defence would be making an application for Detective Inspector Kemar Smith from the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Branch (CTOC) to be called to the stand. In 2017 Smith was a detective constable assigned to the Forensic and Cyber Crime department as a digital forensic officer.
This did not sit well with Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Andrea Martin-Swaby who was concerned that the defence was reopening the Crown’s closed case. She noted that while the discretion lies with the judge, justification must be provided by the defence as to why it is opening the Crown’s case.
Equiano told Justice Morrison that, in the interest of justice, his application is twofold. The first has to do with the interpretation given of an image which, he said, can very strongly challenge or contradict Detective Inspector Smith’s findings during his presentation to the court on December 11, 2023. The second issue has to do with several other thumbnails uncovered by Smith which strongly contradict his evidence.
Tuesday’s proceedings began with Roberts’s mother being grilled by the prosecution about why she did not mention to the police in her statement that Roberts was in the parish because his brother was ill.
The mother, who gave her testimony remotely, gave an account of her call to Roberts to let him know of his brother’s condition. However, he did not show up in St Thomas until the night of February 2, 2017.
Roberts was arrested when he and his mother took the ill man to Princess Margaret Hospital in the parish the following day.
However, when questioned by Martin-Swaby about her statement to the police, the mother said her statement was not on the document shown to her.
The mother’s answer resulted in Martin-Swaby asking a follow-up question.
“You get me mixed up because this statement you show me does not have it on,” stated the mother.
“So which one is it on? Which one is it on?” asked Martin-Swaby.
With no direct answer forthcoming, the Crown ended its cross-examination of the witness. A similar situation followed when Equiano rephrased the question when he asked how many statements she gave the police.
The witness said she was unable to remember.
Gray, a 15-year-old grade 10 student at Green Pond High School, was found dead three days after being reported missing in 2017. She was last seen alive in Montego Bay while on her way home from the funeral of a schoolmate.
Roberts and his co-accused, Mario Morrison, were later taken into custody in connection with the killing.
Morrison pleaded guilty in September 2022, after entering a plea deal with the State, and was sentenced to life in prison a month later.
Roberts’s mother is, to date, the third of four witnesses to testify for the defence. The case continues on Wednesday.