The 2018 murder of a deported Rastaman at Jones Avenue, Spanish Town, "was no accident" Chief Justice Bryan Sykes pronounced on Thursday while continuing his summation in the ongoing trial of 27 alleged members of the Klansman gang.
Prosecutors have argued that the hit was ordered by accused gang leader Andre "Blackman" Bryan.
Count 15 of the 25-count indictment charges the accused, Jahzeel Blake, Michael Whitely, Brian Morris and Bryan with facilitating the commission of an applicable offence by a criminal organisation.
Blake, however, was dropped from that count following a successful no-case submission. The defendant Ted Prince was mentioned in the evidence of the witnesses but had not been indicted for the murder.
On Thursday, the chief justice, in summing up the evidence on that count by the Crown, said their arguments that Bryan, Morris, Whitely, and Prince came together for the purpose of killing the Rastaman "feeds into the theory of the existence of a criminal organisation".
According to the Crown, on the day in question Morris and Whitely were the designated shooters; witness number two was the driver, an individual called Mackerel was the lookout; and Prince was to collect the guns from the shooters afterwards so that in the event the car in which they were travelling was intercepted by the police, the guns would not be found.
According to the Crown, while Prince was not named in the count, he was part and parcel of the organisation. The chief justice, in noting this, also said while Blake had not been named on the count either, the evidence would still be relevant to determining whether or not he was part of the criminal organisation.
Blake had reportedly been the one assigned to see whether the target was in place and report his location to the killers.
"There is evidence capable of showing that Mr Blake and Mr Prince were part of the criminal organisation even though Mr Blake is no longer charged (on count 15) and Mr Prince was never charged on count 15. I suppose if witness number one is speaking the truth, we can indeed say it was a murder and not just a shooting," the chief justice said.
In law a murder is done when a person carries out a voluntary or deliberate act with the intention to kill or cause serious harm and is not acting in self-defence or legal provocation. The act also is not done accidentally or negligently.
According to the chief justice, based on the evidence of witness number one, the killing of the Rastaman "was no accident".
"The inference from the evidence given is that there was intent. From the evidence given by witness number one, all the ingredients of murder have been fulfilled. So, for the part of the count that speaks to "serious offence" in the case of Mr Whitely and Morris, witness number one is saying they did what they did with full knowledge and lent themselves to Bryan's [instructions] to carry out the offence," the trial judge said.
He, in the meantime, also pointed to the evidence of the police who said the body was found in the vicinity of a shop (which was also stated by the main witness) and that it had dreadlocks. Furthermore, a witness who provided the court with the forensic evidence said the body had abrasions consistent with a fall when hit by the bullets. Witness number one had testified that he saw the man fall when shot.
Meanwhile, Justice Sykes said the evidence in respect of both indicted and unindicted incidents spoken of by witness number two gave the impression that "the killers had the endorsement of Bryan". In noting that Bryan doesn't appear to be present at any of the other scenes, except in counts 7 and 8, Sykes said "It appears he had an integral role as a planner or conceptualiser or if the plan was hatched by someone else he had to give approval".
The trial judge, in pointing out that Bryan is indicted for offences up to 2019 although he was taken into custody in 2018, said the telephone recordings which were purportedly made while he was in custody and in contact with the other members of the organisation would answer this question.
Justice Sykes said it would be left up to him to decide whether the identification of voices by witness number one, who surreptitiously made the recordings and turned them over to the police, was accurate.
Noting that there was "more than a passing similarity" in the evidence of the two Crown witnesses, Sykes said while the law emphasises that accomplices cannot corroborate each other, he found no evidence that there was collusion either.
"There is no evidence of collusion in the giving of statements, and by all accounts witness number one gave his statements to the police up to mid-2019 and witness number two gave his statements in January of 2020 and there is no suggestion that witness one's statement was given to witness two [to read], so there is no evidence of collusion between these two gentlemen," the trial judge said.
Furthermore, he pointed out that evidence given by witness number one in relation to instructions by Bryan about the gun given to Morris who was the main shooter — as Whitely was too well-known in Jones Avenue — was not given by witness number two. According to witness number one, Bryan had also told Morris that he would have to hold the bottom of the gun because the clip was slack and the magazine could fall out when he was doing the shooting.
The trial judge said while this omission would have to be taken into consideration, there was still "substantial convergence" between the testimonies of the two, even up to the details of arrivals of each individual who was involved.
"The absence of collusion by [witnesses number two and one] would tend to suggest that both men were present and giving evidence based on their own experience that day," the trial judge said.
Witness one had told the court that witness two drove a white Honda. Witness two told the court that he had driven a "white Accord".
Witness Number one had told the court that Morris and Whitley had approached the Rastaman, who was standing near to a shop where Morris took out his gun and began firing only to have the magazine falling out like Bryan had warned. Whitley then pulled his firearm and fired at the man while Morris retrieved the magazine, replaced it and fired at the man who had fallen to the ground before they both ran off.
In November last year, the Crown's case in respect of that murder hit a snag after it was disclosed that other than a scene of crime photograph and the evidence of the Crown's witness there was no other evidence available from the police for the murder, which is count 15 on the 25-count indictment. A prosecutor at the time, in response to questions posed by Justice Sykes, said no police witness would be coming to speak to the death of the Rastaman either.
However, in regrouping in February, prosecutors called on a detective sergeant assigned to the Major Investigations Division of the constabulary who had been called to the scene on the Sunday of that slaying.
The witness then proceeded to identify the man from photographs shown to the court of the body as well as the crime scene.
With the testimony of the witness, the Crown was able to successfully enter four photographs into evidence effectively shoring up its case for that count.
The matter resumes at 10:00 this morning when Justice Sykes will continue his summation at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.
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