Back to the drawing board for Klansman prosecutors amid legal roadblocksWednesday, November 24, 2021
Prosecutors in the ongoing trial of 33 alleged members of the St Catherine-based Klansman gang have had to restrategise following legal roadblocks mounted on Monday and Tuesday which stalled the admission into evidence of several key documents.
On Tuesday, defense attorneys objected to the admission of two transcripts of the recordings of alleged conversations between accused members of the gang – who are being tried before Chief Justice Bryan Sykes in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston – into evidence against that background that the Crown had failed to properly establish the chain of custody for the documents.
The crown's case also faltered Monday after it was disclosed that, other than a scene of crime photograph and the evidence of the crown's witness, there was nothing else available from the police in respect of evidence relating to a murder which is count 15 on the 25-count indictment.
On Tuesday, the Crown in attempting to recoup from Monday began calling police witnesses who had been involved in the transcription of the recordings which form a crucial part of the Crown's case.
On Wednesday morning when the third such witness took the stand there was a further round of protests.
Defense attorney Walter Melbourne, leading the charge, said, "I have a complaint milord, the last two witnesses that appeared before the Court, I've searched the indictment and I can't find them and I have likewise searched the indictment and i cannot find this witness (new police witness who took the stand this morning)".
Defense attorneys further complained that they had not been able to find or peruse the statements of the police witnesses to come as the documents were not on the drive that the Crown has been placing the documents for the trial on. They further complained that the witnesses being called by the Crown Wednesday were not on the roadmap document disclosed to them by prosecutors on Tuesday.
Responding on Wednesday morning, a senior prosecutor, one of the four leading the evidence in the case, said defense attorneys had been made aware that the Crown intended to call another two witnesses. She further said the statements in question had been made available and were even moved to a more obvious location to make it easier for defense attorneys to locate them. According to the prosecutor, having taken those steps, the complaints were unexpected.
In the meantime, the Crown in addressing complaints over the four police witnesses who are expected to testify next, admitted that its roadmap was incomplete and that it has had to tweak its strategy because of the events since week.
"I will confess, the roadmap is incomplete, it is incomplete to the extent that when we plan and strategise we are going in a particular direction and when we come upon a roadblock we have to go around and so we have to make amendments.
“We all aware of what happened yesterday, we attempted to put in the documents through the two officers and we have not been able to do that and so we restrategise and so we are calling everybody in the chain," the Senior Prosecutor explained.
"We did not anticipate that we would be calling everybody in the chain so those persons' names are not on the roadmap," she said further.
Asked by trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes whether the Crown had not anticipated that the recordings, which are a central part of its case, would be "fiercely contested", the prosecutor said expectations had been that the objections would have come from areas grounded in law for which the Crown had been prepared.
The chief justice Wednesday morning allowed an early break to allow for defense counsels to locate the statements for the upcoming four police witnesses.
The Crown in the meantime has called three of four key police witnesses forward to establish the cabin of custody as it maneuvers its way around the roadblocks thrown in its path.