ODPP plans to keep tight lid on plea deals in mom-daughter murder case
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) says it will be vigorously opposing any attempts to release sealed information about the plea deals and transcripts of the accompanying hearings for two convicts recently sentenced in connection with the abduction and murder of a 10-month-old girl and her mother.
Sarayah Paulwell, the daughter of lawmaker Phillip Paulwell, and her mother Toshyna Patterson, 27, were abducted outside their St Andrew home on September 9 and taken to east Kingston, where they were killed and their bodies burnt.
Roshane Miller and Richard Brown, who were among four persons charged in connection with the deadly plot, pleaded guilty to separate charges for their roles. Miller was sentenced to seven years and 10 months, while Brown received a 30-year sentence.
Paulwell’s spouse, the alleged mastermind Leoda Bradshaw, is also charged in the matter.
On Friday, responding to a request from her lawyer, Deborah Martin, for copies of the transcripts of the hearings and details of the plea deals, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Andrea Martin-Swaby indicated her objection.
“Those documents are under seal by order of this Honourable Court. As such, M’Lady, we will be vehemently opposed to any application,” said Martin-Swaby, who is the lead prosecutor in the case.
Cutting off the prosecution, Justice Vinette Graham-Allen, who appeared peeved by the prosecutor’s assertion during the case management hearing in the Home Circuit Court, said: “If they are under seal by the court, they are under seal by the court.
“How then could a judge of concurrent jurisdiction sit in appeal of another judge in a concurrent jurisdiction? It would be very improper of this judge to do any such thing. Very, very improper,” she emphasised.
Chiming in, Martin said: “I, too, have learnt today. We were not aware of this and counsel who was present was asked to leave.
“We are absolutely ignorant of what transpired, save and except for press releases that have been published by the DPP, telling the public that which she chooses, while we’re ignorant, nothing to do with the sentencing,” she added.
Having now learnt about the sealed documents, Martin then requested the particulars to facilitate an application before the appropriate body to vary the order to ensure a fair trial for her client and her co-accused, Roland Balfour. Both are facing capital murder charges.
Noting that the court is unable to grant her request because the documents have been sealed, Martin said in matters such as these, the defence needs to make certain decisions and needs to have records.
“And we are of the view that these charges are sufficiently significant and serious and the public is aware that the court and the Crown would make every step to ensure that all facilities are made available to the defence to facilitate the fair trial of the accused persons,” Martin pointed out while indicating that she would be making other efforts to secure the material.
Case file incomplete
Balfour’s lawyer, Courtney Rowe, for his part, indicated that he was adopting Martin’s submission.
Earlier, the court was informed that the case file was incomplete. Forensic material from the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Communication, Forensic & Cybercrime Division, forensic certificate from the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, as well as statements from the police investigators were said to be outstanding.
The judge ordered that forensic certificates and the material, which include call data records, be submitted by February 29, and January 30 set as the deadline for the submission of the statements.
The judge extended bail for both defendants until March 6.
In the meantime, Bradshaw, who was dressed in an off-white mini babydoll dress dotted with pearls, appeared less subdued on Friday but appeared to have lost some weight.
The 34-year-old mother, who also shares a child with Paulwell, is accused of plotting the abduction and murder the mother and child. She is charged with two counts each of capital murder, conspiracy to murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy to kidnapping.
Balfour was charged with two counts each of accessory before the fact to kidnapping and accessory before the fact to murder.
Bradshaw is also alleged to have paid J$100,000 in the US currency equivalent to the hitmen as part of a down payment for the J$500,000 hit.
With the help of her cousin and co-defendant, Balfour, Bradshaw reportedly contracted men, including Rushane Miller and Richard Brown, to kidnap and murder the mother and daughter.
The court also heard that Bradshaw travelled to Jamaica with the sole purpose of killing the woman and her child and that she booked a ticket to the island a day after learning about the baby’s existence.
Pertaining to the two-co-defendants who pleaded guilty, Miller was sentenced to seven years and 10 months for two counts of conspiracy to kidnap, two counts of accessory before the fact of murder, and two counts of misprision of felony.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
Miller, the ODPP said, was present at the murder but was not one of the actual killers.
Brown, 32, who had driven the killers and the victims to the murder scene, was sentenced to 30 years each on two counts of murder, which are to run concurrently.
Brown, who is to serve 20 years in prison before parole considerations, was also responsible for collecting $100,000 part payment from the alleged mastermind to deliver to the contract killers.
Attorney-at-law Kelly Hamilton is also representing Bradshaw.