Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Defence urges Sykes to take witnesses’ testimony with a pack of salt

Published:Tuesday | September 20, 2022 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

Defence lawyer Lynden Wellesley on Monday accused the two main witnesses in the Clansman-One Don Gang trial of swapping the truth to save themselves from prosecution.

Addressing the court as defence lawyers maintained their attack on the witnesses’ credibility during their closing addresses, Wellesley, who is representing defendants Ted Prince and Fabian Johnson, charged that the witnesses were unreliable and compromised.

“Is it not a fact that they have an interest to serve?” the senior counsel asked. “Not only that. They have substituted the truth for immunity from prosecution.”

The attorney submitted that the two main witnesses were aiming to give the prosecution a narrative that suits both of them.

However, the two main witnesses, who are self-confessed members of the gang, have insisted throughout the trial that they did not step forward to save themselves.

One of them told the court that the only benefit he would be reaping would be a spot in the graveyard.

Only one had been charged, but Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, the crime chief in the police force, has insisted that there was insufficient evidence to charge the other witness and that it was feared that if he was charged, he would not have testified.

Wellesley was one of five lawyers who yesterday completed their closing arguments, thus wrapping up such submissions for the defence as the trial resumed before Chief Justice Bryan Sykes after a seven-week break.

Wellesley also accused one witness of implicating defendants in crimes while they were behind bars, noting that a line must be drawn between fact and fiction.

During their no-case submission earlier, the defence had presented prison records which showed that three of the defendants were in jail during the periods in which they were accused of committing various murders.

At the same time, Wellesley submitted that the evidence presented against his client has not reached the threshold where the judge can be sure of a conviction.

“Take their evidence not with a grain of salt but with a pack of salt,” the attorney urged the judge.

In their arguments, the other attorneys also urged Sykes to find that both witnesses were unreliable and to reject their evidence as unsafe.

They also contended that the Crown did not present independent evidence to corroborate the witnesses’ claims and has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants were guilty of the respective charges.

Alexander Shaw, who is representing defendant Ander Golding, reminded the court that one of the witnesses had misidentified his client and later testified that he really did not know him, and questioned the certainty of the witness when he testified that he saw his client at a particular crime scene.

He also asked the judge not to place any weight on the secretly recorded conversations between members of the alleged gang, including his client, Stephanie Cole-Christie.

Shaw argued that the conversation occurred after the gang had split and the conversation that took place was not in relation to the persons who are charged.

While brushing aside the shocking details of the conversation, the attorney said the recordings simply showed the “bad behaviour” of the persons involved.

He also asked the judge to accept that Cole-Christie was not a member of the gang and was simply a close friend of the alleged gang leader, Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan.

Chief Justice Sykes adjourned the trial until November 1, when he will start his summation. He explained that he had several engagements for October which would hinder the steady progression of the trial.

Additionally, he said the break would afford the investigator sufficient time to obtain proof of the death of one of the defendants, which is needed for the record.

The victim, Andre Smith, was gunned down on August 11 while on his way from work on Hagley Park Road in the Corporate Area.

Twenty-seven defendants now remain on trial under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act and the Firearms Act. Initially, 33 defendants were indicted, but five were freed.