Annoyed Sykes warns attorneys against wasting time
SYKES... this amounts to a grand waste of my time

After an abrupt adjournment on Tuesday with stern orders from trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes to "have all the records necessary examined so we don't waste time", attorneys in the Klansman gang trial should this morning be primed to continue.

The chief justice adjourned in a huff on Tuesday, merely 11 minutes into the sitting, after learning that defence attorneys and prosecutors did not follow his instructions on Monday to peruse the admission records from Horizon Adult Remand Centre for the accused who were held there to prevent that from being done on the court's time.

Gavin Stewart, attorney for the accused Pete Miller, also called Smokie, had been leading evidence from a staff officer assigned to the facility who testified that he had seen Miller at the Horizon correctional facility in 2017. The staff officer had said that at the time he was the acting overseer in charge of the reception area and had responsibility for making records of prisoners being dispatched to court.

When shown the dispatch book for that period, he identified a March 7, 2016, record for Miller showing that he was dispatched for court at Half-Way-Tree in St Andrew. However, when asked if Miller had returned, he said he could not "say definitively because that information is not in the book in front" of him.

Stewart was in the process of asking the court's registrar to circulate amongst attorneys a dispatch record relating to March 2017 for Miller when the chief justice intervened.

"This was not looked at yesterday?" asked the trial judge, who had, on Monday, requested that the Crown peruse the records from the corrections department beforehand so that they could be agreed as evidence.

A prosecutor's attempt to explain was cut off by the chief justice's next query of "What is the reason for all of this, this morning?"

"Milord, we met with counsel," the prosecutor continued, only to again be interrupted by the trial judge, "No man, I said look at the books, that's what I said, look at the books to see if they can be agreed. So why are we having this toing and froing and passing around and this was supposed to be done from yesterday afternoon?"

"We remained after court," the prosecutor began again, only to be cut short by Justice Sykes's declaration that "This amounts to a grand waste of my time."

"So what are they, records that haven't been seen? I need to know, because I am not wasting my time backing and forthing and backing forthing. This should be done before I come into court. What other records are there to be seen, because this passing around and so on is wasting my time," the trial judge said tetchily.

The prosecutor did not get beyond "Milord" when the trial judge rapped, "You know what, let us adjourn. Mr Smith (sole accused on bail), your bail is extended to return tomorrow morning at 10:00. Have all the records examined so we don't waste time in court, okay. So, we are going to adjourn now. The rest of you come back tomorrow, have all the records necessary examined so we don't waste time."

With that, he walked out of the courtroom, leaving some attorneys nonplussed.

The matter was forced to adjourn on Tuesday last week to allow for defence attorneys who had yet to even identify by name the creators of those records and have them summoned.

On Monday, after the court had heard the evidence of two of three correctional officers, attorneys indicated that although they had the station books from the Spanish Town lock-up, the cops who had made the records were not present. They requested subpoenas for five cops, two of whom have been suspended, the court was told. The defence had further contended that the refusal of prosecutors for the records from the correctional facilities to be agreed evidence (material put into the court's records without having to call the actual witness) was another difficulty they faced.

Chief Justice Sykes, commenting on the issue at the time, said, "At this rate it is unlikely the trial is going to be finished this term" given the issues created in gaining access to records which are in the custody of the executive (the police and correctional services). The chief justice said the use of judicial time to track down all these individuals was not the best use of time and resources.

He had only last month said that he was expecting that the trial, the longest-running matter of its kind which began in September last year, should be finished at the end of July.

The matter resumes this morning at 10:00 in the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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