Down but not out
Chief justice says count 25 in Klansman gang trial might still be useful despite being struck from indictment

CHIEF Justice Bryan Sykes has indicated that there might still be “some use” for at least one of the counts struck from the indictment brought by the Crown in the ongoing trial of 27 alleged members of the Klansman gang, as well as the testimonies of one of the main witness about incidents for which the prosecution did not indict.

The chief justice divided his summation on Wednesday morning between the evidence relating to count 25 and the testimony of Witness Number Two about three incidents which emerged in court, but the Crown brought no charges.

In June last year count 25, which had charged alleged leader of the gang, Andre Bryan along with accused Fabian Johnson, Stephanie Christie, Jahzeel Blake, Andre Golding and Lamar Simpson with conspiracy to murder a man named Ice, for which the judge said there was no evidence to prove the intended victim even existed, had collapsed, making it so that the accused no longer faced that charge.

However, Chief Justice Sykes, in continuing his summation of the evidence in the case on Wednesday, said while the offence as charged was not established by the evidence brought by the Crown, he was of the view that the evidence given “has other uses and can be used to determine whether a criminal organisation exists”. The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act 2014 defines a criminal organisation as any gang, group, alliance or network combination or any arrangement among three or more persons — whether formally or informally — that has as its purpose the commission of one or more serious offences, among other things.

In relation to the unindicted offences the chief justice said he would be addressing the implications of the testimony of Witness Number Two in relation to the murder of a man in Thompson Pen in November 2017, a murder at the fisheries village in 2017, and the arson of the Torpedo Loan Company buildings in Spanish Town and Old Harbour. Witness Number Two, a former gang member turned Crown witness, had asserted that the two murders were ordered by Bryan.

He, however, said the fisheries attack had gone wrong as the alleged shooter, the accused Ted Prince, had missed the target and shot the wrong person instead, enraging Bryan.

In his testimony regarding the arson of the Torpedo Loan Company buildings, the witness also said the plan to gas and burn the structures was hatched by the accused Jason Brown, also known as City Puss, during a call with himself and Bryan on the line. This, the chief justice said, was another instance which the Crown appeared to be saying proved the existence of a criminal organisation.

In the meantime, the evidence of both main witnesses in relation to count six, which charges Bryan with facilitating the commission of an applicable offence by a criminal organisation, in relation to the August 2017 murder of a man called Doolie, came in for considerable scrutiny by the trial judge.

Doolie was shot dead outside the supermarket where he worked after three attempts. He was allegedly marked for death by 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 Wednesday the chief justice, in reviewing the evidence of the two main witnesses on that count, said while there were differences in their accounts there were also similarities.

“As to whether or not this gentleman was killed, when we come to the rest of the evidence I don’t think there would be too much doubt as to whether or not Mr Doolie was shot and killed,” he said, noting that other people linked to the store were at the scene where the killing occurred. Two of those individuals subsequently gave evidence during the trial and identified Doolie from photographs. This, the chief justice said, was “supporting evidence”.

Furthermore, Justice Sykes said the inconsistencies and omissions pointed out between the accounts of the two witnesses by the defence were “not really significant”.

The matter resumes today at 2:00 pm when the trial judge will continue his analysis of the evidence at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.

The judge-alone matter has dominated the court list since 2021, engaging all of two Supreme Court courtrooms and with witnesses producing explosive testimonies and evidence about the alleged running of the gang.

The testimonies of two alleged former gang members-turned-Crown witnesses and a police investigator who infiltrated the ranks of the outfit posing as an uncle of one of the gangsters is the linchpin of the Crown’s case, judged to be the longest-running matter of its kind with the largest number of defendants in any single matter in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Five of the original 33 defendants who were named in the matter have since been freed. The sole defendant who was out on bail was killed in a still-unsolved murder in August last year, resulting in 27 individuals remaining on trial.

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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