Fri | Jun 2, 2023

Custody claims no absolute shield to gang charges – Sykes

Published:Thursday | February 2, 2023 | 1:31 AM

The evidence presented by three alleged members of the Clansman-One Don Gang to prove that they were in custody when some reported murders and shootings occurred will not put them completely in the clear.

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes said based on the evidence of an ex-gangster-turned-prosecution witness, covering late 2016 to 2017, the defendants’ time in custody does not exonerate them from involvement in the incidents detailed by the witness.

“The point I am making is that some of that evidence about when they were taken into custody, it really does not have an impact on Mr ... evidence in terms of demonstrating that they were in custody at the time of the events of which he has spoken. I very am clear on that,” the judge said during his summation Wednesday.

Furthermore, the judge said that when other evidence is taken into consideration, it is possible for the times given to be interrupted, especially in circumstances where neither of the two prosecution witnesses gave precise dates and times.

“For example, in respect of counts seven and eight, we know from the evidence of police who went on the scene that it was September,” Justice Sykes said.

Murder and arson

Those counts relate to the murder-arson in which a couple, Jermaine Bryan and Cedella Walder, were allegedly killed by the gang and their house set on fire in New Nursery Fisheries, St Catherine.

State records pertaining to the arrest and detention of three defendants, Tareek James, Pete Miller, and Donavan Richards, showed that they were behind bars during the periods in which they are accused of committing various murders.

The trio had requested records, as part of their defence, from the Spanish Town Police Station and the Horizon Adult Remand Centre to prove that they were, in fact, in custody.

Records obtained also showed that defendant Kalifa Williams was also in custody when he is alleged to have committed a murder with the gang. However, of the two murders which Williams was charged with facilitating, one of the counts failed during a no-case submission while the other was withdrawn.

In the meantime, Justice Sykes criticised the police Wednesday for their lack of supporting evidence in the case. He described the police investigation as “poor and unacceptable”.

“There is zero supporting evidence coming from the police in terms of photographs, scene-of-crime reports, spent shells recovered,” he said. “And we are not talking about events that occurred 30, 40 years ago. We are talking about over the last four years.”

The judge said that some of the dates may very well cover the period when some defendants claimed they were in custody.

“At this point in our history, we are not supposed to be having cases coming before the court that are serious offences such as murder based on what is being said, and the court is just left with a civilian coming in to say, ‘I saw this, I saw that,’” he said.

The judge raised the issue while examining the evidence given in relation to the murder of a bus driver identified only as ‘Tandi Bay’ at the Spanish Town bus park in St Catherine.

A witness had testified that the driver was ordered killed by reputed leader Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan after complaints from two alleged gang members that he was encouraging transport operators to resist paying extortion fees.

Bryan and 26 alleged gang members are being tried on an indictment with multiple counts of offences under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act and the Firearms Act.

One of the defendants, Andre Smith, was shot and killed last August while he was on bail. Five others were freed.

Justice Sykes will continue his summation today.