DPP: Not entirely our fault - Llewellyn says Allen, jury and court issues contributed to murder case dragging on for 13 years
While acknowledging that a “prosecutorial decision” by her office delayed Lynford Allen’s murder trial, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has placed some of the blame on the St Andrew man as well as the country’s under-resourced judicial system for his case languishing in the courts for 13 years.
Last week, The Sunday Gleaner chronicled Allen’s account of the abuse he suffered in police lock-ups while he waited 13 years to have his day in court.
He maintained his innocence while insisting that the justice system is designed to “send poor people to prison even when they are not guilty” after more than 94 court dates.
Llewellyn, citing the file maintained at her office, disclosed that the case was postponed 18 times because Allen had no legal representation, either because he had terminated his attorney or his attorney had withdrawn from the case.
“Each time representation changed, the court had to make sure that there was disclosure and service of the court documents and statements the prosecution was relying on to the new defence attorneys,” she said, noting that a trial cannot commence without the accused having legal representation.
On nine court dates, the trial could not commence because there were either insufficient jurors or no available courtrooms, Llewellyn said.
Allen was arrested and charged in 2006, along with convicted killer, Andre West, for the shooting death of Jamie Lue in Grants Pen, St Andrew, on December 30, 2005. Lue, a former financial analyst, was robbed of his bank card which was used to withdraw cash from his account.
A month before Lue’s death, West was among a group of men who abducted HIV/AIDS activist Steve Harvey from his home, robbed him of his bank card then shot him to death. He was convicted in the Home Circuit Court 2014 and later died.
Another man, Dwayne Owen, was also convicted for Harvey’s slaying.
Llewellyn, responding to claims in The Sunday Gleaner article last week, disclosed that Allen landed on the police’s radar after investigators got a tip that a man named ‘Gavin Walker’ was involved in Lue’s killing.
According to the DPP’s account, ‘Gavin Walker’ was apprehended by the police – armed with a warrant – in the Grant’s Pen area of St Andrew and later gave investigators a caution statement “about the night of the murder” as well as his correct name.
Llewellyn said following his “admissions” – and the fact that he had confessed to giving the police a wrong name – the cops interviewed Allen under caution and in the presence of his attorney.
“During the interview, Mr Allen gave a different version, once more, as to the events leading up to the death of Jamie Lue.”
Furthermore, the chief prosecutor revealed, West gave a caution statement to the police outlining two robberies that took place that night, including one involving Lue, and detailed Allen’s alleged role.
“As a matter of law, a caution statement can only be used as evidence against the maker of that statement. It is not evidence against a co-accused unless it has been adopted by that co-accused,” she explained.
However, John Clarke, the attorney representing Allen, disputed Llewellyn’s account, insisting that his client made no ‘admission’ to investigators and that the witness statement attributed to him was “concocted by the police”.
“The officers had him in a room for six hours asking him questions, then they decided what they were gonna write down in relation to what he answered and what he never answered,” Clarke told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
The attorney accused the police of trying to coerce Allen into giving evidence against other men accused of killing Lue, even after he insisted that he was never present and knew nothing about the incident.
“He has a letter from UHWI (University Hospital of the West Indies), which confirms that at the time when Jamie Lue was being killed, he would have been at UHWI at the time,” Clarke said.
The attorney acknowledged that the case file includes a statement in which Allen said his name was ‘Gavin Walker’, but again blamed the police for this.
“The police gave him a nickname of ‘Gavin’ because they were looking for a ‘Gavin Walker’ and they decided that the ‘Gavin Walker’ they were looking for was Lynford Allen,” Clarke told The Sunday Gleaner.
Llewellyn said given the circumstances surrounding the availability of witnesses in the two murder cases and bearing in mind that West was a common co-accused in both matters, a “prosecutorial decision” was taken to proceed with the Steve Harvey murder trial first.
“This matter was somewhat protracted as two female witnesses who were former co-accused proved somewhat elusive,” she said.
However, in 2014, after a trial, a 12-member jury found West and Owen guilty of Harvey’s murder.
Allen’s murder trial commenced October 8 last year and, according to Llewellyn, was expected to rely largely on circumstantial evidence.
However, she indicated that the trial hit a snag when prosecutors attempted to enter “the most critical piece of evidence” – the witness statement Allen gave under the name ‘Gavin Walker’ and the interview.
The chief prosecutor said Allen’s attorneys objected, triggering a voir dire – or a trial within a trial conducted in the absence of the jury to determine whether the statements should be admitted.
At the end of the process, the presiding judge was not convinced the statements should be admitted.
“The learned trial judge had critical concern of the evidence surrounding the length of time Mr Allen had spent in custody and was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the evidence elicited by the prosecution at the voir dire,” Llewellyn said, explaining the decision taken last November to discontinue the trial.
According to Clarke, the judge did not accept that the ‘admission’ reference by the police was freely given as a confession.
“Therefore, the judge said they could not have been brought in (entered into evidence) because the manner in which they were allegedly taken were so questionable that she had questions about whether they were voluntarily given,” he said.
Llewellyn indicated that even before Allen’s trial commenced, there were challenges with the case, which were exacerbated by the delays.
However, she insisted that Allen was not without blame, noting that the trial was aborted 27 times “due to [the] absence, actions or lack of representation by the defence”.
Clarke also disputed this, saying his client was always anxious to have the trial completed.