‘Credibility contest’

CHIEF Justice Bryan Sykes says the absence of official records of multiple calls between a senior cop and Stephanie Christie O/C Mumma — which could have supported assertions by one of the Crown’s main witnesses in the ongoing Klansman Gang trial that she was the go-between for the gang and cops — has left him with a “credibility contest” as to who to believe.

According to the former lawman — who testified in May last year that he in 2017 bartered with the allegedly top flight member of the gang for two of the criminal outfit’s best rifles in return for the release of reputed leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan — he had some five numbers for Christie who called and sent messages to him on WhatsApp numerous times. He said the woman had also sought to bargain with him over the release of the other individuals who had been picked up by the police.

The chief justice, in resuming his summation on Tuesday morning, assessed the evidence of the senior cop to see if there was support for the assertion by Witness Number Two, a former gang member who said Christie was the one who had regular conversations with the police when members of the alleged criminal outfit ran into trouble with the law.

“There is an observation that I make generally in, not just this kind of case but when it comes to the question of proof and supporting evidence …the Privy Council made the point some years ago that when evidence is available, call up the evidence. Don’t just get up and say ‘Judge, so and so…’, ” the chief justice reasoned.

He said given that the case is being tried in modern times where it is possible to request call records from telecoms service providers, prosecutors could have done this even without going to the extent of getting the content of the conversations, if even to just establish that the lawman was in contact with Christie as he testified.

“What is left now is essentially a credibility contest: Do I believe this police officer, or do I believe Mrs Christie?” the chief justice said. According to the trial judge, the “contest” is further magnified given that the lawman during cross-examination had given conflicting testimony regarding the time when the conversation about the guns took place, leaving the court to wonder whether he was suffering from a memory lapse or had fabricated the entire situation.

“So that is it in respect of the evidence of whether Mrs Christie was in the habit of speaking with the police …one has to see whether that aspect of Mr [senior cop’s] evidence is reliable or if [he is reliable] generally,” the trial judge said.

The Crown, in opening its case in September of 2021, said Christie, a supposed pastor, was the “liaison officer” between incarcerated members of the criminal outfit and those roaming free. Christie, the court was told, was also responsible for securing legal representation for the members of the gang whenever the law caught up with them and was also the “link” between the gang and rogue cops.

Meanwhile, Justice Sykes on Tuesday also began assessing the evidence given by Witness Number Two in relation to the identification of 11 of the defendants, so far, who are alleged to be gang members. Witness Number Two, who said he was Blackman’s personal driver and the accountant for the gang, did not attend any identification parades but identified several of the accused while they were in the docks at the beginning of the trial, detailing his supposed association with each.

The chief justice, while not making any definitive pronouncements regarding the identification evidence of Witness Number Two so far, pointed out that “it is clear that he wasn’t the kind of witness given to precision in terms of times and dates and so on”. He said whether this characteristic made his “evidence unreliable” would be “seen as we go along”.

The Crown is alleging that the remaining 27 accused between 2015 and 2019 carried out a range of murders, conspiracies to murder, extortion and arson throughout the parish. It said the gang’s headquarters at Jones Avenue in Spanish Town was used by its members for planning their exploits and was also where briefings and debriefings in respect of crimes took place. The court also heard that this was where transactions such as the sale and purchase of guns to carry out murders were done. Several members of the gang in their roles as “foot soldiers”, the court was told, were responsible for ensuring that murders ordered were executed and that extortion monies were collected.

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