THREE accused Klansman gangsters who were acquitted for a 2017 hit on a man at Price Rite supermarket, in St Andrew, as well as others who were not charged for that crime but were linked by witnesses, might not be entirely off the hook.
This according to Chief Justice Bryan Sykes who is continuing his summation of the evidence in the ongoing trial of 27 alleged Klansman members in the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.
The victim, Damaine Forrester, otherwise called Doolie, was shot dead on August 15, 2017 outside the supermarket where he worked in St Andrew, on the last of three attempts. He, according to the testimony of prosecution witnesses numbers one and two, was allegedly marked for death by alleged Klansman leader Andre "Blackman" 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.
Count six of the indictment had charged Bryan, the accused Jahzeel Blake, Tomrick Taylor, and Donovan Richards with that murder. Following successful no- case submissions on behalf of the three accused, the charges against them were dropped for that particular murder, leaving Bryan alone on the count. However, all the accused are still facing the charge of membership of a criminal organisation, which is count two of the indictment brought by the Crown.
On Thursday, the chief justice said this reality alone could have implications for Blake, Taylor, and Richards in the first instance, as well as the defendants Andre Golding and Fabian Johnson, otherwise called Crocs when he hands down his judgement.
The Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act 2014 defines a criminal organisation as any gang, group, alliance or network combination or any arrangement among three or more people — whether formally or informally — that has as its purpose the commission of one or more serious offences, among other things.
"The question at this point is whether, when you compare and contrast the evidence given by Witness Two in the period leading up to the shooting death of Doolie, it has any value and how, if it has any value, does it have any implications for the persons named in the indictment on count six as well as other persons not named in count six but were mentioned in the narrative leading up to the night of August 15, 2017. And so, for me, the answer is yes — the evidence does have value. Depending on whether it is accepted or not, it can be used to demonstrate the existence of a criminal organisation," Justice Sykes said.
The trial judge said, while Witness Number Two spoke of two visits in an attempt to kill Doolie and Witness Number One spoke of three, it could be reasoned that Witness One was present on three occasions since he was the only one who was able to identify Doolie for the rest of the individuals on the trip.
"So if what Witness Number Two is saying is true, then yes, a criminal organisation is there and the serious offence and purpose was to kill Doolie. Witness Two is saying he doesn't know who Doolie was, but it explains why Witness One was an important person in the killing of Doolie; both are adamant that Mr Bryan was not at the scene of the killing.
"Witness Two told us that the persons present on the first trip was himself, Jahzeel Blake, Donovan Richards, and Tomrick Taylor. If this is true, what this means is that even though Mr Blake, Mr Taylor, Mr Richards, were acquitted on count six, it does not mean that the evidence given cannot be used to show that they were part of a criminal organisation… it has value, and notwithstanding the fact that in respect of count six the three were acquitted, does not negate that they were members of a criminal organisation," the trial judge reiterated.
He further noted that while the three were not at Price Rite when the actual shooting took place, as they had been replaced by other alleged members, it still did not mean they could not be found guilty of the membership count.
"So you can be a member of a criminal organisation but when a specific crime is being committed you may not be there, but it does not mean you are not still a member," he stated, adding that while "the law and the statute criminalises being a member of a criminal organisation, the law does not require that any member commit any act [to be recognised as a member] other than, being a member".
Furthermore, he pointed out that while the defendants Andre Golding and Fabian Johnson were not named as part of the first trip to kill Doolie, but were present during another trip, based on the law it was not even necessary that gang members know each other for it to be established that they were members of the organisation.
"The uniting factor is communication with Mr Bryan, that is the uniting factor. And Witness Two, if his evidence is accepted, takes us further back to the planning session at his home, so the fact that you have different persons in the trips doesn't mean they can't be found to be members," the trial judge said, adding that despite "inconsistencies and discrepancies" in the accounts of the two pointed out by the defence, "it seems they were both talking about the same shooting the night of August 15, 2017".
On Wednesday, the chief justice in a similar vein had said there might still be "some use" for the evidence from count 25 which was struck from the indictment earlier in the trial, as well as the testimonies of one of the main witnesses about incidents for which the prosecution did not indict.
The matter resumes today at 11:30 am when the trial judge will continue his analysis of the evidence. The judge-alone matter has dominated the court list since 2021.
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