Court drama in 2022

THE Jamaica Observer provided extensive coverage of the courts in 2022 where several interesting matters where heard.

Some were completed last year while some will continue into 2023.

Here are seven of the major cases.

1) Klansman Gang trial

Dubbed the mother of all trials, the judge-alone matter has dominated the court list since 2021. The matter was heard in two Supreme Court courtrooms because of the number of defendants, originally 33 now down to 27. Five of the defendants have been freed based on no-case submissions, while one, who was out on bail, was murdered.

The trial produced riveting testimonies and evidence about the alleged running of a faction of the St Catherine-based Klansman Gang. The testimonies of two alleged former gang members turned Crown witnesses and a police investigator who infiltrated the ranks of the outfit posing as an ‘uncle’ of one of the alleged gangsters is the linchpin of the Crown’s case.

Judged to be the longest-running matter of its kind with the largest number of defendants in any single matter in Jamaica and the Caribbean, the trial is being presided over by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes. It is expected to end this month following the summation and a ruling by the chief justice.

2)Khanice Jackson murder

Robert Fowler, the St Catherine mechanic accused of killing 20-year-old accounting clerk Khanice Jackson, remains before the court and should be the subject of another case management hearing this month.

Jackson, who lived in Independence City, Portmore, St Catherine, went missing on March 24, 2021 after leaving home for work. Her body was found at the Portmore Fishing Village in St Catherine two days later. Shortly after, Fowler, with whom the accountant was said to travel to work at times, was collared. Fowler, who has been in custody since, is said to be ailing which has affected the court proceedings.

3) Donnalee Donaldson murder

Constable Noel Maitland, who is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Donna-Lee Donaldson, will return to court on February 9 for a plea and case management hearing before Justice Vinnette Graham-Allen.

Maitland spent Christmas 2022 behind bars after he was denied bail in October last year.

The police constable, who is assigned to the St Andrew North Police Division, was taken into custody in July by detectives from the Counter Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigations Branch in relation to Donaldson’s disappearance.

Donaldson was first reported missing to the police on Wednesday, July 13 after she failed to return to her house, having reportedly left to visit Maitland’s New Kingston apartment on the night of July 11. He was subsequently charged with her murder. Her body is yet to be found

4) Cocoa Piece murderer gets five life sentences

Twenty-three-year-old convict Rushane Barnett was in October handed five life sentences for the murder of his cousin and her four children in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon in June. Supreme Court Judge Justice Leighton Pusey in making his ruling, told Barnett that for the lives of 31-year-old Kimesha Wright, her children 15-year-old Kimanda Smith, 11-year-old Shara-Lee Smith, five-year-old Rafaella Smith, and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry, he would serve a life sentence on each count with eligibility for parole after 61 years and eight months. Those sentences will run concurrently.

The bodies of Wright and her four children, all of New Road, Cocoa Piece, Clarendon, were discovered inside their house with chop wounds and their throats slashed on the morning of Tuesday, June 21 by a relative.

Barnett reportedly fled the area to Wilson Run in Trelawny, where he was apprehended. He was charged three days later based on a statement he gave to the police.

5)Crown wins historic appeal

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) in October registered a historic win with the granting of the first appeal under the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Act, 2021 against Lindel Powell, otherwise called Lazarus, who was convicted for two counts of murder.

Instead of the 12 years handed down to Powell by the sentencing judge, he will now serve two life sentences at hard labour.

The Appeal Court, which heard arguments and submissions in May 2022, but reserved its judgement, ruled that the 12 years imposed by the sentencing judge be quashed and the life sentences imposed instead.

On count one the court ordered that Powell serve life in prison with a stipulation that he serve 20 years and seven months at hard labour before becoming eligible for parole.

On count two the tribunal ordered that Powell serve life in prison with the stipulation that he serve 24 years and seven months at hard labour before becoming eligible for parole. The sentences are to run concurrently and are to be treated as having commenced on the date on which they were imposed.

The ODPP, in December 2021, had served notice that it would appeal the sentence handed down to Powell who had confessed to two counts of murder in a 2017 Westmoreland incident.

6) Westmoreland teen who raped, buggered and strangled nine-year-old gets life

The Westmoreland teen who used his knowledge of his nine-year-old neighbour’s love of fruits to lure, rape, bugger and smother her to death was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 23 years and nine months by Supreme Court judge, Justice Courtney Daye in September.

The judge, in sentencing the youth for the murder, told him, “You allowed yourself to be overcome by this abnormal-for-your-age sexual passion to an innocent young child and it is of the highest order, and it has to get a sentence that reflects that.”

For the offence of rape, the judge sentenced the convicted teen to 18 years and the maximum of 10 years for the buggery charge. The prison terms will, however, run concurrently making it so that he will spend the longest of the three sentences — 23 years and nine months.

7)Accused MP killer ‘vanishes’

Simeon Sutherland, the man accused of murdering then Portland Eastern Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, whose trial was set to begin in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston on Wednesday, November 2, absconded after being dropped off at the court house.

Sutherland is charged with murder and misprision of felony in connection with the stabbing death of Bloomfield, the former People’s National Party member, at the politician’s Passley Gardens house in Portland on February 2, 2019.

He was granted bail in the sum of $800,000 by the parish court with conditions.

Sutherland’s mother was taken into custody following his disappearance as she had stood surety for him. She was subsequently released after the bond was paid. He remains on the run.

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