Guilty, guilty, guilty: the verdict on Derek Chauvin-April 21, 2021

Former policeman, Derek Chauvin was found guilty unanimously on all three counts of murder and manslaughter for ‘killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, a crime that prompted waves of protests in support of racial justice in the US and across the world.’

Relief was clear for many who’d endured years of police brutality and killing of black people often for minor offences and rarely being sanctioned for those deeds.

That extended to comments by Vice President Harris:

President Biden remarked on the case at length, talking about “systemic racism”:

It was a “step forward”:

He also called the Floyd family:

Impetus is now greater for police reform:

#COVID19Chronicles-359: March 30, 2021-Lenten reflections 41-Getting justice for George Floyd

The trial of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd began yesterday. It will be harrowing and also complicated, He is accused of both manslaughter and murder of George Floyd:

What I saw of the events, before, were harrowing and I have no wish for any repeat viewing. The trial is being shown live on TV.

Uncertainty in a world of quick answers: The JCF paints itself into a corner over a murder most foul

When I do not know the answer to a question, I try to find it. If I cannot find it, then I go away with the frustration that the question remains unanswered–at least, for me. I do not want to speak for others, just myself. I often try to put what facts I can find against the question to give me the answer. Just getting statements that purport to be the answer is not good enough. If those statements seem to have flaws, then I try to find ways to remove those. Until I get clarity I will not make a pronouncement. I do not want to speak for others, just myself. I’m patient and will hold my judgement until I feel I can go forward with a view that I can back up.

I have been following a murder case in Jamaica that just ended with the suspect being freed, on the instruction of the judge to the jury to acquit. The facts of the case were few. A schoolboy, Khajeel Mais, was shot, while riding in a taxi on July 1, 2011. The allegation was that the taxi crashed into a car, a BMW X6, whose driver allegedly then proceeded to draw a gun and shot into the cab, hitting the boy in the process. The driver of the taxi, Wayne Wright, took the boy to a nearby police station. The boy died.

Days after the shooting, the police sought to find the owner of the BMW, now suspect, Patrick Powell, went to his home on July 10, found him absent abroad, and searched for the gun, without success. The next day, the man returned to Jamaica on July 11 and was detained and requested to hand over his registered firearm; he refused, reportedly on his lawyer’s advice. The case against the man proceeded, without having found the weapon, and with the suspect claiming his innocence.

Some police forensic work was done that established the taxi and the man’s car had matching paint marks, suggesting a collision. However, ballistics information was limited, and without a gun, no matches could be made of a weapon and shell. Gunpowder residue was found on the hands of the  victim. There appeared to be only one eyewitness, and his statement submitted in evidence was that the suspect was the man who shot into the taxi.

Following multiple delays, the case goes to court after five years. However, under cross-examination at trial by the prosecutor, the witness recanted that statement, and is then treated as a ‘hostile witness’. The prosecution case falls.

Many people are amazed that what seemed to be a clear case descended quickly into a legal mess. The expectation of a verdict of guilty went away fast once there was no way to pin the suspect to the scene of the crime. We see many flaws of our legal system exposed. We see many concerns about the fairness of our society exposed: it seems that another ‘well-to-do’ person has bettered the legal system, and those ‘less well placed’ suffered, again.

Society wants answers to troubling events, but will it accept what it wants without proof that it has what it needs? That, to me, is one of the important questions.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force issued a statement, Police High Command Responds To Murder AcquittalIt leave more questions unanswered than it answers. But, for me, several questions are stark:

  • If a country has laws that allow a suspect to refuse a request to hand over a registered firearm suspected of being used in a crime, how can you really expect to solve gun crimes?
  • If your national ballistics database for registered firearms is being created, alphabetically, and a suspect comes up, whose name is not yet reached, are you content to say, that is reason enough to not enforce the advancing of compiling data for that person, exceptionally?

With questions like that, what is the meaning of the JCF’s statement (my emphasis) ‘According to the High Command, the Police did everything that was expected to be done to ensure the successful prosecution of the murder case against Mr. Powell.’?

People’s confidence in the competence of the police force is low in Jamaica. I’m sorry to say that doing everything that was expected to be done’ is ambiguous. It’s not everything that should have been done, or everything that could have been done, it’s less than either, IF the expectation is that not much will be done.

The defence attorney, Patrick Atkinson, a former Attorney General, commented on the radio yesterday to Cliff Hughes that ‘information contained in the [JCF] press release is not correct’[listen and read here]. Do you feel your confidence in proceedings rising or falling?

I do not know the identity of the killer, but I am convinced that not enough was done to establish who that was. To turn around a metaphor, many stones were left unturned. The killer is still at large–FACT. The gun is still not found–FACT. We are swimming in uncertainty. Speculation doesn’t change that. The vast majority of crimes in Jamaica go unsolved–FACT. Add another one to that statistic.

What may happen if the suspect is forced to relinqish his firearm and tests on it show it was the murder weapon? The case against him cannot be retried (double jeopardy). We still would not know whose finger was on the trigger.

I’ll share just a few exchanges I’ve had over recent years about justice, not just in Jamaica.

FYI, Charles Blow is the noted New York Times columnist, and we had an exchange in 2012:

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I added earlier this week:

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Earlier this year, I had the exchange with reporter, Karen Madden, and it reflects a basic weakness that affects our ‘crime fighting’ efforts in Jamaica:
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You would have to be an optimist of an extraordinary order to have faith in the Jamaican justice system to deliver a fair outcome: it’s proven repeatedly to be unable to do that. Cases coming to trial, few as they are, and slowly as they do, merely reinforce the apparent unfairness. The main actors dispensing justice often seem duplicitous. (It seems standard that a police officer is allegedly complicit in trying to hide evidence. That it was unproven in this case, doesn’t detract from the strong suspicion that the coppers are bent.) Little wonder that those ordinary citizens who help build the system–especially, witnesses and jurors–are tempted to also ‘game’ the system. Listen to the words of the Director of Public Prosecutions about how people seem ‘schooled’ in recanting statements and avoiding perjury.

A cart rumbling along, on its uneven wheels, is likely to breakdown completely and spill all its contents.

Speaking for myself, my faith in the justice system is low. I have seen little reason to change that view. I’ve heard a string of platitudes that suggest that ‘talk is cheap’. Heaven help anyone who has to go through its wringer.

The good, the bad, and the ugly (March 16, 2014)

Good

Jamaica was eagerly awaiting the end of the so-called ‘Vybz Kartel Murder Trial’ or ‘Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams case’; it came last Friday, with the jury returning guilty verdicts for four of the five accused, including ‘Vybz Kartel’ (real name Adidja Palmer).

Vybz Kartel during his court case
Vybz Kartel during his court case

In the same breath, almost, came news that one juror had tried to bribe the jury foreman, and was taken into custody to appear in court on Monday. What?! Then, on Saturday afternoon, the police confirmed that Shane Williams, the only accused acquitted in the Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams murder case, remains in police custody on another murder charge. What! What?

So, continues the long line of links between Jamaican musical trends and crime. We’re not unique for that, and similar links in the USA between hip-hop culture and crime come quickly to mind. Not exploring that here now, though. Lots of words have already been written and spoken about the trial and what it may say about Jamaica. All I will add for the moment is that the justice system seemed to work as it should, not perfectly smoothly, but the halting gait did not impede its progress. A few cases still going on in Jamaica, however, (including the so-called ‘Cuban light bulb scandal’ case) will need to come to clear conclusions before we can even begin to say that the system appears to work for all.

Bad

Bayern Munich, known in German as Die Roten. Unfortunately, the sound ‘rotten’ comes too easily to mind this week.

Known as a ‘family’, Bayern looked after their own past players well under ‘his Hohness’. Well, a classy team will have to work hard to burnish that image.

Ugly

What has happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Boeing 777-200ER Malaysia AL (MAS) 9M-MRO
Boeing 777-200ER Malaysia AL (MAS) 9M-MRO

Over a week gone and still no signs. It’s not our instant gratification urges that makes us concerned about the apparent disappearance of something so large and technologically connected to all of the sophisticated communications systems. It’s just not normal for such things to happen. Do we have to start thinking about ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ to solve this mystery? On 15 March, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced in a press conference that satellite-related data showed that the aircraft’s ACARS and transponder had been deliberately disabled and that radar data indicated that the aircraft’s “movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane”. We are being urged to think of terrorists and hijackers, but many wont be content with something so prosaic. Meanwhile, we get treated to many instances of human incompetence and failing, with some prime examples of pure bad communications. Keep watching this space, so to speak.