'In custody defence' may not help accused in Klansman case
A section of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston where the trial is taking place.

CHIEF Justice Bryan Sykes has signalled that arguments from several of the defendants in the ongoing Klansman Gang trial that they were in custody during incidents in which the Crown's main witnesses alleged they were involved might very well have no impact on the outcome of their cases.

Attorneys for the accused Peter Miller, Kalifa Williams, Donovan Richards, and Tareek James have contended that their clients could not have participated in the murders and shootings tied to them by the Crown as they were behind bars at the times stated in the indictment which charges them.

Prosecutors had, however, argued that the prison and lock-up records which the defence leaned on could not stand up to scrutiny.

"We have noted that the records are scattered among many different books. We have had records from admissions books, an alphabet book, a penal records book, and a DNR [for accused who did not return from court] book," a senior prosecutor contended earlier last year when the matter came up. According to the prosecution, the records seemed to be done without any cross reference to the varying books.

The chief justice, in continuing his summation on Wednesday, appeared to be saying that the Crown had scored in that respect.

"A number of the defendants made the case that they were in custody at different points for extended periods of time, beginning in 2017. As far as witness number two is concerned, all of his evidence covers the period late 2016 up to the latter part of 2017, so the point I am making is that some of that evidence concerning some of them being taken into custody doesn't really have an impact on witness number two's evidence, in terms of demonstrating that they were in custody at the time of the events he spoke to," Justice Sykes, who is trying the matter, said.

Continuing, he said, "And, in some of the counts, when you look at the other evidence in the case it is possible to pin down, even in instances where [neither witnesses] gives the exact date and month.

"For example, in respect of counts seven and eight [murder and arson in New Nursery, Spanish Town], we know from the evidence that the officers went on the scene in September, no mystery there. So Witness Number Two's evidence addresses a number of the counts and those events are prior to the end of November 2017, so that's a critical point," he stated.

In respect of count 19, which charges the accused Andre Bryan and Ted Prince with murder; count 15, which charges Andre Bryan, Michael Whitely, and Brian Morris with a 2018 murder; and count 14, which charges Andre Bryan, Jahzeel Blake, Andre Golding, and Tareek James with murder, the judge noted that, "For Mr Bryan, on his unsworn statement he was taken into custody March 4, 2018, and so, in terms of the other defendants, it is now a matter of looking to see their dates as far as 2018 is concerned and what is being said about them."

"So it may very well turn out to be that some of the evidence relating to how long they were in custody and when they were taken in may very well turn out to be interesting information but has no impact on the determination of the counts, so we will see," the chief justice said enigmatically.

He, in the meantime, began his assessment of the evidence on count 14, which involves the November 2017 murder of a bus driver in a section of Spanish Town known as Tandy Bay, allegedly at the hands of the racketeers for lodging a formal complaint to the police about the extortion activities of the gang.

The chief justice, in pointing to the testimony of the police witness as well as the Crown witnesses about the incident, reiterated his chagrin that there was "zero" forensic evidence coming from the police from that scene. Justice Sykes, in pointing out that this was also the case for other counts on the indictment, said it created a difficulty in assessing the evidence surrounding the dates of the incidents, especially given that the defendants were contending that they were in custody at the various times they were fingered.

According to the chief justice, at this point in the history of the country's jurisprudence, attorneys should be coming to court with only the evidence of civilians. "This is just simply poor, not acceptable at this point in our history," the trial judge stated.

The chief justice will continue his summation when the matter resumes at 10 this morning at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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