Chief justice grills police investigator over missing evidence

A missing compact disc (CD) with scenes of crime photographs, a vanished logbook, and a damaged hard drive were the subject of testimony given by an empty-handed forensic crime scene investigator on the witness stand in the ongoing trial of 33 alleged members of the St Catherine-based Klansman Gang. Trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes on Tuesday described the situation as “serious” and “not good news”.

Justice Sykes comments came after the investigator, who said she processed the scene where Damaine Forrester, alias Doolie, was allegedly murdered at the hands of the Klansman Gang outside Price Rite Supermarket, St Andrew, in August of 2017, under questioning, disclosed an unfortunate chain of events which led to the disappearance of the material which appears to be irretrievable.

Doolie, who was assassinated outside the supermarket where he worked, was killed after three attempts, after being allegedly marked for death by reputed gang leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan because he was said to be a member of the rival Tesha Miller faction of the gang and was also said to be related to two members of that outfit.

On Tuesday, the female detective constable, one of five police witnesses who took the stand during the day, said she responded to a call to process the crime scene at 11:00 pm.

She was detailing the layout of the area and its precise location in response to questions from the prosecutor leading the evidence when the trial judge intervened.

“Tell me something, you said you are a photographer?”

When the witness replied in the affirmative, he said, “You took pictures of the place and other things?” to which she answered, “Yes, Sir.”

“So why aren't we looking at the photographs?” the chief justice enquired.

“Because we don't have them,” was the response from the Crown.

“You don't have the photographs, what happened to them?” the trial judge asked the witness.

“I'm not sure, Sir. After they were downloaded something went wrong with the hard drive…after making the CD and checking back the hard drive to get a copy of the CD, it could not be found, because there was damage on the drive,” the detective constable said.

“So where is the CD?” the chief justice asked the Crown.

“I don't have it, M'Lord,” was the response of the prosecutor.

As for the witness, she said, “It was handed over. I don't remember who collected it, the same person who collected the statement got the CD as well.”

“Oh, they did?” the chief justice said incredulously, adding, “I see,” when she replied in the affirmative.

“It's a police officer? So wouldn't we be able to find out who that was?” the chief justice queried.

“...I was checking [and] the book that those persons normally sign in had disappeared as well,” the witness informed the judge.

“The book is gone, the CD is gone, and the hard drive was damaged? I see. So you didn't have backup?” the trial judge enquired amidst loud chuckles and snickers from the alleged gang leader and several of his co-accused.

“It's the backup system that was damaged, Sir,” the witness offered.

“It's a digital camera? So, it had an SD card…so what became of the SD card?” the chief justice pressed.

“Those cards are the same ones that we reuse. Once we download anything they are reformatted,” the officer informed.

“So you erased what is on the SD card?” the chief justice asked.

“Yes, Sir,” the officer said.

She said the SD card was placed into a card reader and the material from the card downloaded onto an external device and saved and then transferred to the backup system.

Asked by the chief justice whether it was possible that a copy of the photographs would be on that external device, she said the situation was the same with that device as with the cameras.

“The same procedure with the hard drive, as well, so at some point it is formatted as well,” she said.

“No, man, this is a very serious matter, you know, because suppose you have unsolved murders and the pictures you provided gave important clues to the murder that means you could exonerate persons, there would be none? This is not good news in the 21st century at all,” the chief justice declared.

“...So the long and short of it is that we don't have any photographs of this scene,” he said almost rhetorically.

“No, M'Lord, we don't,” was the response.

“Okay,” the trial judge retorted in a resigned tone.

In the meantime, the forensic investigator said she took photos of the body that was on the ground. She said she also collected spent casings which were lying on the ground and samples of “the red substance that resembled blood” near the body and sealed and labelled them.

Earlier Tuesday, two other police witnesses testified of the killings of two bus drivers in the Spanish Town Bus Park, allegedly at the hands of the gangsters.

In the first account, a detective sergeant, who said he was present at a Spanish Town, St Catherine, bus park in February 2018 when a man known as “Tesha bus driver” was slaughtered by assassins attached to the Klansman gang, described how the mortally wounded man, who he drove to the hospital, tried to speak even as doctors fought to save his life.

“He was trying to speak, but I could not understand what he was saying,” he told the court.

The detective, who said he had been stationed in the bus park as a result of the ongoing extortion by the gangsters, told the courtroom that the ill-fated driver known to him as Tandy Bay had been the only one to make a formal complaint to the police against the thugs. He said other operators had been too fearful to make formal complaints but had voiced their concerns to him.

Another lawman, who later took the stand, testified of a November 7, 2017 incident in which another bus driver was peppered with bullets one early morning in the same bus park. He said he, with the assistance of his colleagues, took the man who had gunshot wounds in the region of his neck was taken to hospital for treatment.

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

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