(Jamaica Observer) FIVE years ago when Constable Collis ‘Chucky’ Brown joked about signing away his freedom during a meeting with officials from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) after detailing his role in the deaths of three men in Clarendon, he had no idea he was, in fact, sealing his fate.
“Oh lawd Jesus, have mercy. Oh, mi signing miself into prison now. Anytime mi done mi nuh have no name left,” Brown was recorded as saying during the meeting with INDECOM in September 2013, when he affixed his signature to the pages of a 93-page transcript of an interview he had given to the commission in August.
As fate would have it, Constable Brown was yesterday found guilty in the Home Circuit Court on three counts of murder and a count each of conspiracy to murder and wounding with intent by a unanimous verdict from a six-member jury, consisting of two men and four women. The verdict was returned after four hours of deliberation. He is to be sentenced on December 20.
While the verdict was being handed down yesterday, Brown was observed staring off into space and, in one instance, shaking his head. At the end of the proceedings, Brown, who would usually have a half-smile or smirk on his face, was serious as a judge while leaving the room.
No member of Brown’s family was visible yesterday, and most of his colleagues who spoke to the Jamaica Observer repeated the Jamaican phrase that was used by the prosecution during its closing argument: “Cock mouth kill cock.” According to them, he should not have gone to INDECOM and should have kept quiet.
The constable, who had been a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for more than 15 years, was in January 2014 arrested and charged, and has since been in custody for the January, 10, 2009 murder of Robert “Gutty” Dawkins in Palmer’s Cross, Clarendon and the December 13, 2012 murders of Andrew ‘Suga” Fearon and Dwayne “Murderous” Douglas on Swansea main road in May Pen, Clarendon.
Brown was slapped with the charges after he met with INDECOM twice in August 2013, when he was captured on tape and on video disclosing that he was a member of a special squad of police officers from the May Pen Police Station who had been selected to “sort out bad men” in the Clarendon Police Division, and detailed how the killings occurred and how the group operated.
During the meetings, which occurred on August 6 and 10, Brown told the INDECOM officials that the squad was established by a senior member at the police station and that officer supplied the team with motor vehicles, ordinary shotguns and keep-and-care M16 rifles, as well as money for them to purchase firearms which they would plant on some of the victims when they were short on the guns that they would have normally been given from the May Pen Police Station’s armoury.
Brown also disclosed that the extrajudicial shootings were done by two methods — while operating undercover and as actual police officers. He said that the team started out by going undercover, but under the guidance of a senior officer, reverted to overt operations when suspicions were raised that police officers were involved in killings.
During the meetings, the convicted officer denied killing Dawkins but indicated that he had been the driver of the car which had carried the police officer who was responsible; however, in the other incident, he acknowledged that he had killed one of the men while another officer had killed the other.
But one of the prosecution’s witnesses, who said he was a police informant for Brown and his squad and that he was paid by a superintendent to help the police retrieve illegal guns, testified that Brown had asked him to help get Douglas. The witness testified that he was the one who told Brown about the whereabouts of the two men shortly before they were killed. The informant also told the court that Brown wanted Douglas because he claimed he had disrespected his (Brown’s) boss and two of his dons. According to the witness, Brown’s boss was a well-known Manchester don whose daughter Douglas had kidnapped and raped.
However, Brown, during his unsworn statement, told the court that he had nothing to do with Dawkins’ death and that, in the second incident, he was instructed by his superior to go for the men, but they fired at him and his team and they returned gunfire.
Yesterday, following the conviction, one of Brown’s attorneys, Vincent Wellesley, expressed anger and disappointment at the guilty verdict.
“They (the jury) have sent a wrong message and signal to the hard-working members of the police force,” he said. “This verdict will cause the police force to be further demoralised.”
“I am very disappointed in these Jamaicans who I thought did not like gunmen and criminals,” he added.
According to Wellesley, who represented Brown along with lead attorney Norman Godfrey and junior counsel Althea Freeman, the defence, in its case, had presented enough to warrant a not-guilty verdict.
However, the prosecution team, which was led by Queen’s Counsel Caroline Hay, and included Ann-Marie Feurtado-Richards and Natalie Domville, was most satisfied with the verdict and praised the jury for doing a good job.
“It is clear that the jury took the time to think about what was presented to them over the last eight weeks. It was lot of information and the issues were national issues, as far as we are concerned. The allegations were very, very serious, so we are satisfied that justice was served. But if they had decided not guilty, we would have to accept the process,” Hay said.
When asked to respond to the defence team’s claim that the wrong message is being sent by the jury, she said the prosecution believes that the jury’s message was that everyone is entitled to due process.
“When you have an allegation of wrong[doing], the citizen has the same right to due process as the police officer. And I think if I could speak for my team [that] that’s [the] most important point for us, that there is a thing known as due process of law and everyone is presumed innocent until found guilty, and the process of proof, as the nation would have seen, can take time. Witness come, witness go; there is an opportunity to challenge, there is an opportunity to say why they might be lying on you. It’s a process but everybody is entitled to it and any day you drop that standard, you open it to anyone deciding who lives and who dies, and that is the message sent by the jury: we must observe due process of law,” she said.
In the meantime, INDECOM, in a press release yesterday, said: “This case has identified a range of wrongdoings in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and INDECOM continues to investigate such allegations. INDECOM hopes that the JCF will continue its reform efforts, and we continue to encourage that the police abide by the law whilst enforcing the law, and urge good officers to speak out when they see misconduct.”