Lawyer: Witness sold his soul to save himself


Lawyer: Witness sold his soul to save himself

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

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DEFENCE attorneys, in the continuing trial of alleged members of the Westmoreland-based King Valley gang, yesterday accused the lead investigator – a top ranking member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force – of striking a deal with the Crown's main witness and to not charge him for crimes he openly admitted to committing in return for evidence.

The main witness, who commenced testifying on January 14, had admitted to being involved in murders, rapes, robberies and scamming while being part of the gang which terrorised the Grange Hill area and surrounding communities in the parish from the time he joined.

The individual, who testified from a remote location via live video link, recounted for the court several crimes he and other alleged gang members supposedly committed, indicating that he did “robberies, rapes, scamming and hitman work”.

The men – Carlington Godfrey, alias Tommy; Lindell Powell, alias Lazarus; Rannaldo McKennis, otherwise known as Ratty; Derval Williams, also called Lukie; Hopeton Sankey, alias Bigga; Christon Grant, alias Ecoy; Copeland Sankey, also known as Tupac; and Sean Suckra, also called Elder — are charged in an indictment containing 11 counts.

Yesterday, defence counsel for accused Carlington Godfrey and Abina Morris took the first thrust at the female officer during cross- examination, arguing that based on the admissions made by the key witness, he was in fact more of a suspect than a witness.

This line of argument was continued by Donald Bryan, attorney for accused Rannaldo McKinnis, who asked “was there any point in your typing and reading the statement [made by star witness to police] that caused you to stop and think that this man is a suspect?”.

Bryan was forced to rephrase his question several times after the witness indicated that she did not understand the point he was making at first.

Trial Judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes then clarified, “This man told you he did robbery, scamming, hitman work. What the lawyer is getting at is, having heard all this did it occur to you that this man cannot be a witness and that this man should really be a suspect? Did this thought pop into your brain? This man is saying I am a robber, a scammer, a rapist and a murder. Didn't it pop into your head at any point that this man is a suspect?”

Said the officer: “My investigations commenced on May 9, 2018 and continue up to now. I am still making enquiries, the investigation is still open.”

Justice Sykes, in questioning whether the investigator had known about the gang prior to meeting the witness and whether he had indicated that he had in fact been part of that gang, further probed “this man is telling you he is a robber, rapist, scammer, murderer, the only thing left for him is treason;l the lawyer is asking you, did it occur to you that he was a suspect? As to whether you go on to charge him is another matter, but didn't it occur to you?”

Replied the witness: “My lines of enquiry were along the lines of Mr (name omitted) as a witness. The outcome can go either way. My investigations continue. It [thought] occurred, but my investigations are still open and it can end anywhere.”

The officer also told the court that she had made enquiries of the Westmoreland police as to why the witness had not been charged, based on his open admissions. She further noted that he was released from custody but “there was some concern about the threat to his life, so he volunteered to remain in protective care”.

Attorney Bryan then asked: “So you are saying that, based on your evidence [the main witness] is still under investigation?”

“I did not say the [witness] was under investigation. The case is still under investigation; as it relates to the King Valley gang, the case is still open and investigations are continuing and, at the appropriate time, I will make the finding available to the appropriate department for further consideration,” the witness shot back, noting that the “investigation was carried out with the highest level of integrity”.

Pressed Bryan: “Nobody promised him visa? Nobody never promise to pay him so him didn't have to work again? I'm suggesting to you that this investigation is a botched investigation.”

In response to the witness' firm “no”, he went on to suggest that the investigation was “incomplete”.

In the meantime, Oneil Brown, counsel for the accused Derval Williams, wanted to know “on what basis can a man who confessed to you that I raped women, killed, robbed and scammed remain uncharged by you as a police officer?”

The officer, in responding, insisted that the investigations were continuing and noted that she had “no material to suggest” the witness was part of a criminal organisation nor did she have a claimant coming forward to say the star witness had robbed them.

“So he didn't confess to you”? Brown pressed.

“He gave me some information and I reduced it to a statement,” the witness retorted.

“So the reason you have not charged Mr (name omitted) for any of the crimes was that favour was promised to him in return for the evidence he would give, and him not being charged at all is the favour that was promised,” claimed Brown.

“I am going to suggest to you that when you say that no favour was held out to that witness in return for his evidence you are not speaking the truth. I will further suggest that the reason he has not been charged is that he sold his soul to save himself,” he said dramatically.

“I did not buy any soul; I do not know what you are talking about,” the witness said.

The trial resumes at 10:00 am today.

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