Segmented society; jury of your peersSunday, October 17, 2021
A couple decades ago when I was far younger, far better looking and significantly more naive, I was tasked to locate and recover four 40-foot containers of salt fish that had been hijacked and stolen whilst in transit in Kingston.
In keeping with the intelligence received, I had dialogue with the head criminal for the Spanish Town market and flatly accused him of being in possession of the salt fish.
He responded by saying: “'Boss, if four container of salt fish reach ya from yesterday nuh bout three man nuh woulda dead already. U waan find u salt fish, follow de bodies.”
It never made sense to me back then that some salt fish could create that degree of violence. I never understood the impact that something of value has when it falls in the midst of many who are deprived. Nor did I understand that the stability between groups in that environment was as fickle and fragile as some salt fish.
However, I followed his advice and waited. Within a day violence broke out at the Redemption Ground Market, three young males ended up dead and two were wounded.
I followed the bodies and there I found some of the salt fish. Not much, but at least I located the receiver.
Now decades later and after a lifetime of fighting gangs, I understand totally what that gangster told me. I also understand why killers will kill once there is something to fight about.
I have, over the years, given evidence about shoot-outs and shootings as a result of being subject to cross-examinations and re-examinations. I have noticed that even seasoned prosecutors and defence counsel do not fully grasp the essential elements of combat, bullet behaviour and the workings of the human body and brain whilst under attack. Let me give you an example:
I did a high-risk entry once that resulted in an incident. When questioned by the relevant authorities I told them I spent five minutes in a house. The young man who came in with me and exited with me told them we spent 15 minutes.
The supervisor, who did not go in, but logged our entry and exit, timed us at 10 minutes.
None of us were lying. The clearance was high stress, so time sort of becomes an anomaly.
When combat occurs it impacts the information that you had absorbed prior to the incident. I never understood this until it happened to me more than once and I observed that it happened to others.
I once asked an Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) investigator, who was formerly a cop, how long he thinks it takes a combatant to fire 14 rounds from a Glock pistol? He told me about 30 seconds.
I have a video of it being done in sub-three seconds. I did not even realise the speed at which it could be done until I started to do it in training. Why? Because it seemed like a waste of ammunition, so I did not train that way.
However, shoot-outs usually consist of close-quarter exchanges of under five seconds, so it is very relevant.
My point is, with even persons exposed like ex-cops and barristers with years of experience and hundreds of cases not quite getting it, and even the time lapse issues that my colleague and I experienced years ago, how in the world can juries make a reasonable assessment of the facts?
Now let me explain the process of jury selection.
Both the prosecution and the defence get the opportunity to challenge a juror attempting selection to a panel. Defence counsel challenges former police officers and military. Prosecutors challenge inner-city residents, especially gangsters. I totally understand both points of view. But really and truly, you have just removed the groups who can identify with the facts.
So who are we left with? A hairdresser, two nail techs and a vendor. Maybe a teacher and two housewives.
How in the hell can they identify with the rate of fire of a Glock pistol or the inability to recall the chronology of five events in a four-second incident?
It is different with judge-alone trials like what occurs in the Gun Court, or recently with some trials conducted with the judge as the jury due to COVID-19 restrictions.
They do hundreds of cases so their exposure is so much more than jurors who rarely do more than one or two stints in the courts.
Still, even this system is hampered if specialised training in firearms and combat are absent. Maybe we could introduce this into our future training of judges. It couldn't hurt.
Maybe we could go a step further.
None of the participants in 9/11 have been tried in an American court in Continental USA. They were tried by military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This was made possible by an Act of Congress passed after the attack on September 11, 2001.
It seemed drastic to resort to this type of judicial activity, but killing 3,000 people in one day in this manner requires drastic action.
Is it time for us to make the constitutional changes that require military tribunals for gang members charged for criminal offences? That seems really drastic.
However, we do 9/11 damage every two years in an accumulated body count. This requires drastic action.
The solution to Jamaica's body count, if it is to be solved, will be solved by extremism, not moderation.
Drastic changes made by extreme decision makes 3,000 people every two years on average for about 20 years is something that requires drastic thinking. Unless moderate solutions can work. But can they?
We have been a moderate society ever since our last experience with extremism in the seventies. We saw what it can do, so understandably we reject it.
However, do we do this at the cost of a solution? Is it that we are willing to sacrifice hundreds of innocent people and about a thousand guilty annually to maintain our moderate stance?
The question I want answered is: would we do this if the victims were not poor?