Klansman trial set to resume today after technology glitchWednesday, September 22, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
The trial of 33 alleged members of the Klansman gang, which was yesterday halted prematurely, should resume this morning with evidence being given by at least one of two gangsters turned Crown witness.
Prosecutors on Monday, in outlining their case, said while the Crown intended to lean on the testimony of 43 witnesses in its bid to prove its case, “primary evidence will be adduced from the two witnesses” who will give their evidence from a remote location.
According to prosecutors, the self-confessed gang members will give accounts of incidents that they have witnessed being carried out by the gang, “lending proof that there is, in fact, truth in the Crown's allegations”.
“It will be borne out that these two witnesses have intricate details of how these offences were committed and can speak with personal knowledge of the perpetrators of this offence,” the court was told.
The accounts will involve details of alleged murders and acts of arson carried out by the accused gangsters.
Expectations for the unveiling of those salacious details yesterday were dashed because of connectivity issues that affected the trial which is spread across two courtrooms in the Supreme Court building. Court staff spent the better part of one hour trying to resolve the problems which affected the main screen of three situated in courtroom number one where the trial resumed before Chief Justice Bryan Sykes promptly at 10:00 am.
The chief justice, who on Monday had outlined how he expected preparations to go to allow for the proceedings to flow smoothly, in frustration at 11:10 am, announced that the matter would be adjourned until today.
“Whatever the issue is, it has not been resolved. I can't be sitting down here indefinitely, so the matter is adjourned until tomorrow,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, while announcing the adjournment of the trial at some minutes after midday, Justice Sykes had indicated that the defendants were to be in the building by the latest 8:30 am for processing and ushered into the courtroom around 9:30 am so the proceedings could commence at 10:00 am.
He had said the part day adjournment would facilitate the installation of additional equipment and checks to ensure that audio and video feeds were in place as well as the arrangements for live streaming.
Yesterday, however, those seemingly well-laid plans went awry, to the chagrin of the sitting judge. The announcement was met with a show of frustration from the defendants, the first sign coming from accused gang leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan, who angrily reacted to the announcement, hissing his teeth loudly and repeatedly, while mumbling behind his mask. Several co-accused, following on his lead, hissed their teeth in concert with one individual complaining loudly that the court had “wasted” his “time”.
The case, which includes the largest number of accused ever to be tried together in a single matter, is being handled by 40 attorneys. The accused are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) (Amendment) Act, commonly called the anti-gang legislation with several facing additional charges under the Firearms Act for crimes allegedly committed between 2015 and 2019. All 33 accused, who are being tried under an indictment containing 25 counts, when arraigned on Monday, pleaded “not guilty” to the charges against them.
The offences for which they are being charged include being part of a criminal organisation, murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, illegal possession of firearm, and illegal possession of ammunition.
Bryan is charged with, among other things, being the leader of a criminal organisation — Klansman/One Don gang.
In 2019, Tesha Miller, leader of the other faction of the gang, was convicted for orchestrating the 2008 murder of then Jamaica Urban Transit Company Chairman Douglas Chambers. Blackman, the alleged hitman, was acquitted of the killing in 2016.
Police say that the splintered gang, which has a membership said to number around 400, has wreaked havoc in the parish of St Catherine and has connections in neighbouring islands and elsewhere overseas.