Jamaica: Cops in death squad trial freed of murder charge

Home Circuit Court, Jamaica.

(Jamaica Observer) Two policemen who were on trial for murder after they were implicated in the controversial ‘death squad’ probe, are now rejoicing after they were yesterday both found not guilty of killing a man in May Pen, Clarendon, seven years ago.

Detective Corporal Kevin Adams and Constable Jerome Whyte were before the Home Circuit Court in relation to the death of Anthony ‘Toby’ Trought on February 13, 2012 at his home on 1st Street, Terrier Town.

But yesterday a seven-member jury, after deliberating for 45 minutes, returned a verdict in favour of the two cops.

During the trial, which lasted just over a month, the prosecution led evidence that on the day of the incident, the policemen visited the community in search of Trought.

The court heard that Trought was not at home, and the police left, but on their return they saw him arriving in a car with another person.

According to the prosecution, both Trought and the other man exited the vehicle with their hands up and were conversing with a group of four cops when Corporal Adams crept upon them and shot Trought.

An autopsy report later revealed that Trought sustained three gunshot wounds to the torso.

But the policemen, who did not deny opening fire on the deceased, insisted in unsworn statements last week that they acted in self-defence as Trought fired at them first.

Following the handing down of the verdict both men — who were in high spirits, smiling and talking with colleagues, friends and members of the jury — declined to comment when approached by journalists.

However, Adams’ attorney expressed joy at the outcome on their behalf.

“No jury verdict is ever expected, but clearly this jury listened attentively to the evidence over the weeks and I know from the questions that they asked that they were weighing the issue of self-defence as against the Crown’s case,” Valerie Neita Robertson, QC, said.

“I am very happy for my client Mr Adams, and Mr Whyte. they are fine police officers and it was very nerve-racking for them so I’m very happy I was able to discharge my function for them as defence counsel,” she said.

Whyte’s lawyer, Churchill Neita, said the verdict shows that justice is still alive and well and that the police can expect to get justice when they defend themselves while carrying out their legitimate duties.

“It’s not a verdict that we are surprised at and we believe that the verdict demonstrates the position that police officers in the legitimate exercise of their duty, who are sworn to defend and protect us when they in fact defend themselves and their colleagues in legitimate self-defence, this is the type of verdict we expect,” he said.

Additionally, he said the jury was mindful of all the issues raised and had accepted that the police had come under gunfire in the lawful exercise of their duty and defended themselves.

Lead prosecutor Caroline Hay, who expressed that the Crown had put up a strong case worthy of conviction, said she accepted the result.

“Our position in relation to jury verdicts is always the same: Jamaica is a difficult place to prosecute because witnesses are always intimidated, people don’t want to serve. So when jurors come out to serve and give their time and attention, as citizens of the country and as people who play a significant role in the justice system, we thank them and we appreciate them and we encourage them to come forward and we always respect the verdict of the jury,” she said.

“In our assessment of this matter: we had more than enough for a conviction, but it is not just our assessment, it is how the evidence plays out in court, and what the jury makes of it and we just have to accept it in the end and we genuinely respect it,” she added.

Adams and Whyte were among 13 cops from the Clarendon Police Division who, in 2014, were charged by the Independent Commission of Investigations for allegedly carrying out extrajudicial killings as a part of a so-called death squad based in the parish.

Adams was acquitted of a murder charge in January but is awaiting trial for the alleged killing of Adif Washington at May Pen Hospital on January 14, 2013.

He is also to be tried for the alleged murder of Sylvester Gallimore in May 2011.

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