Jamaican police cleared in killings

CLARENDON, Jamaica – The flamboyant Senior Superintendent of Police Reneto Adams and two other policemen were Tuesday freed of charges in the Kraal case, which SSP Adams had previously branded “the mother of all trials”.

A 12-member jury, comprising seven women and five men, deliberated for a little over five and a half hours and returned to find SSP Adams, Corporal Lenford Coke and Constable Shane Lyons not guilty of the murder of four persons in Kraal, Clarendon, on May 7, 2003, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

They were Angella Richards, 47; Lowena Thompson, 39; Kirk Gordon and Matthew James, both 29.

The police had said they were fired on as they approached a home in Kraal in search of wanted man, Bashington ‘Chen Chen’ Douglas.

There were tense moments as the jury deliberated, and more so when they asked to see footage of the crime scene. Defence lawyers paced the floor inside and outside the courtroom as they awaited the jury’s verdict in the Home Circuit Court.

Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe ended his summary of the evidence at 10:44 a.m. yesterday, then discharged the jury a minute later.

The jury returned at 4:20 p.m. The foreman, a woman, appeared weary as she stood to announce the not-guilty verdict.

SSP Adams, garbed in a black-and-white striped suit, with bow tie and brown shoes, did not react to the verdict. Neither did his two co-accused.

There were stifled sounds of jubilation inside Courtroom Number One, but they were audible enough to force Chief Justice Wolfe to threaten to eject anyone who continued the celebration.

Now freed, SSP Adams told reporters it was back to business – fighting the nation’s number one problem: crime.

“My men and I will be going back, if I am afforded the opportunity, with a resolve that has now been multiplied a 100 times,” he said. “Those (criminals) who returned (to Jamaica) from England, Canada, America and the Caribbean, I am imploring them to return from whence they came because so it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end.”

But in a statement yesterday Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas said the freed policemen would not be reinstated until they have received counselling. He said this was according to Jamaica Constabulary Force policy covering officers who have been out of service for more than one year.

“It would, therefore, be premature at this stage to comment on where the policemen charged in the Kraal trial will be redeployed within the JCF,” the commissioner concluded.

Reacting to the verdict yesterday, lead defence attorney K. Churchill Neita said he was jubilant at his client’s acquittal.

“I’m very happy at the verdict, I think it’s a proper one in all the circumstances,” he told The Gleaner. “I think that the evidence in this case did not merit a conviction and that the jury gave its calm and deliberate consideration and came to what we consider to be a just and right verdict.”

He admitted there were tense moments during the jury’s five and-a-half-hour deliberation.

“There were moments of anxiety and concern and that always happens when a jury retires, but in the long run, we’re very happy.”

Contacted by The Gleaner, former Scotland Yard detective and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields declined to comment, referring to the commissioner’s statement. DCP Shields was head of the Scotland Yard team which led the Kraal investigation.

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