ATTORNEYS for convicted felon Tesha Miller, who is serving 38 years at hard labour for engineering the 2008 murder of former chairman of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) Douglas Chambers, say the accessory before the fact charge against him should have been dropped when accused shooter Andre “Blackman” Bryan was acquitted in 2016.
Miller, the alleged leader of a faction of the Spanish Town, St Catherine-based Klansman Gang, was convicted in the Home Circuit Court in December 2019 after a trial in which the prosecution led evidence from a witness who alleged that he was a former member of a gang led by Miller, and that Miller had given orders and arranged for Chambers to be killed and then arranged for Bryan to be sent to the Cayman Islands on a boat to evade the police.
Miller was charged with the offences of being an accessory before the fact and after the fact in relation to the killing and was sentenced in January 2020 to 38 years and nine months’ imprisonment at hard labour. The sentence imposed on him for the offence of accessory after the fact was 18 months’ imprisonment at hard labour. Bryan, however, was acquitted after a 6-1 majority verdict of not guilty was handed down in the Gun Court division of the Home Circuit Court in 2016 following a trial.
Attorney Isat Buchanan, on Tuesday, day two of fleshing out the grounds of the appeal at the court in downtown Kingston, in arguing a seventh ground relating to a no case submission which had been made on behalf of Miller, prevailed on the court to consider the construct of Section 35 of the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act under which Miller was tried.
Said Buchanan said: “The learned trial judge failed to uphold the no case submission when this issue was placed before her on the basis that the main principal Andre Bryan was acquitted.”
He said with both the witness and the jury being aware of that acquittal a technical difficulty would have arisen in convicting Miller and insisted that the charges against Miller would have to be withdrawn because there can be no accessory after the principal was acquitted.
“The learned trial judge would have failed to fix her mind as to whether Miller could be tried and convicted after the evidence was that there was a meeting and Bryan was to be the shooter and had a plan to escape,” Buchanan said.
According to Buchanan, “the rule is that where there is no conviction of the principal there can be no conviction of the accessory”.
Buchanan, under further probing by one of the panel of judges as to whether the only other alternative for a conviction to still be made was for the individual to be indicted as the substantive felon and tried as such, said the only option left to the Crown was to indict Miller as the substantive felon after Bryan was acquitted.
He said with this not being done, the only option the court had was to release his client.
In the meantime, Attorney John Clarke, who is the lead attorney for Miller’s defence team, contended that “the prejudicial evidence led in this case was overwhelmingly, incurably wrong and unfair to the accused”.
He said the opening assertions made by prosecutors in the trial indicating that Miller was the head of an elaborate criminal organisation that killed 13 family members of the sole material witness, was involved in extortion, and used those monies to pay lawyers to defend members who found themselves in trouble with the law was “prejudicial material”.
According to Clarke, that presentation of the evidence might have unfairly influenced the jury to return a verdict of guilty and influenced the jurors to believe that Miller was guilty of other crimes and so was also guilty of engineering Chambers’ murder.