Judge says evidence of Witness Number One crucial to outcome

THE evidence of the prosecution's two main witnesses regarding the 2017 double murder of Jermaine Bryan and Cedella Walder — who were shot and then set ablaze, allegedly by members of the Klansman Gang in New Nursery, St Catherine — came under heavy scrutiny buy trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes on Monday.

The Crown, in opening its case on September 20 last year, said that event — which is reflected in counts seven and eight on the 25-count indictment — was part of the crimes committed between 2015 and 2019 that are attributable to the gang. This act was said to be carried out by the accused Andre "Blackman" Bryan, the alleged gang leader, and co-accused Fabian Johnson, Dylon McLean, Brian Morris, Michael Whitely, Tareek James and Jahzeel Blake, who were in search of a rival named Bobo Sparks.

According to Witness Number Two, an ex-gang member-turned-Crown-witness, on the night of the incident he had been present at a yard on Jones Avenue, Spanish Town with the defendants — McLean, Blake, Morris, Johnson, James, and Bryan. He, however, did not testify to the murder scene as he said his role was to run the road as a lookout for the police while the others carried out the attack, and so he had left.

Witness Number One, also an ex-gang member-turned-Crown-witness, however, told the court that himself, McLean, Blake, James and Bryan, as well as the accused Joseph McDermott, were together in one of the two groups that carried out the attack. He also gave evidence as to the lighting at the meeting and how long he saw the accused he had named while there.

The chief justice, who is a week into his summation of the evidence in the case, said on Monday that the evidence of Witness Number Two did not answer the critical questions of lighting, distance, or impediments to, or enhancement of sight relating to the accused that night.

"These are critical questions, the answer to which must be found in the evidence. His evidence doesn't really provide the answers. When you look at the evidence of Witness Two of the night of the gathering of these persons, there is not one word said about lighting — absolutely nothing. So, the question then becomes how would the legal standard [for establishing identity] be satisfied? He did not indicate how he was able to see; he is not purporting to identify them by their voices," the chief justice pointed out.

According to the judge, much might be riding on the evidence of Witness Number One in this regard.

"It would seem to me that the success for the Crown in these two counts would rest almost exclusively, if not exclusively, on the evidence of Witness Number One and not so much Witness Number Two because the Crown has said that its case is that the persons named in the indictment were the ones who went over and did the act — that is one possible conclusion," the trial judge said.

"So, if that is one possible conclusion it necessitates an assessment of the rest of the evidence given by Witness Number One who was the only one who went on any of the [formal] identification parades, and there were no serious challenges to the identification parade [evidence]," the chief justice said.

Witness Number One had positively identified Bryan, McLean and James in formal identification parades organised by the police, during which he picked out the accused from individual video line-ups and photographs.

Jermaine Bryan and Cedella Walker — two alleged victims of the Klansman gang — died "huddled together" after they were peppered with bullets and their wooden dwelling burnt to rubble by the thugs.

On Monday the chief justice, who began the assessment of the identification evidence brought by the Crown relating to the two victims, said the evidence of a community witness and relatives would suggest that Bryan was not the Bobo Sparks who was being sought.

Earlier in the trial a witness from the community of New Nursery said it had been a quiet place until the peace was shattered in 2004 because of the rivalry between some individuals there and others in the Jones Avenue community, the stomping ground of the Klansman Gang.

The chief justice will continue his summation when the matter resumes at 10:00 am today.

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