JFJ & Family Devastated by Verdict in Hapete Henry Case; Disappointed with Prosecution
Monday, March 18, 2013, Kingston, Jamaica – After 15 long years trying to get justice, the family of Hapete Henry was handed a devastating blow today in the Circuit Court when the jury was instructed to return a formal verdict of not guilty. Jamaicans For Justice has been working with Mr. George Henry, father and Ms. Elaine Williams, mother, of Hapete since January, 2004. The family has endured three Coroner’s Inquests over the course of twelve years and a three year wait to get to trial in the Supreme Court after the Coroner’s jury named Calvin Lewis as responsible for the murder of Hapete.
JFJ is devastated by the verdict and the circumstances which led to it. The prosecution of the matter in the court was less than satisfactory. The prosecutor appeared not to know what the witnesses looked like, or what they were going to say, or even if the arrest warrant that was issued by the Judge had been served on the witness. In the course of the trial, one witness said that he could not recall what happened on 22.4.1998 while another witness contradicted his previous statement and testimony without any apparent consequence. There were several other witnesses who had given statements in the matter and there were no apparent efforts made to get them to court or to get their statements admitted into evidence. Ballistic evidence was not led that would have shown whether the bullet which killed Hapete Henry came from the gun of the accused policeman. It appears that the prosecution was ill-prepared, ill-managed and unable to meet an acceptable standard of presentation of their case.
The sub-standard prosecution of the Hapete Henry case can only engender further loss of confidence in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions coming as it does after –
- The decision not to prosecute the Michael Scarlett case, despite the Coroner’s verdict that he was murdered by two policemen
- The collapse of the Crown’s case in the killing of Ian ‘Chin Sing’ Lloyd
- The continued postponement of the Fredrick ‘Mickey’ Hill matter because of failure to serve documents and assign a prosecutor to manage the matter
It is completely untenable that this critical and constitutionally protected office should lose the trust of the people, particularly as professional functioning is the least that it must deliver in the face of Jamaica’s extraordinarily high murder and police fatal shooting rates.
Mr. Henry, Hapete’s father, maintained the stoic composure that has been his hallmark throughout the entire fifteen year search for justice. He was in disbelief when the verdict was handed down. He had hoped for some justice and closure from this proceeding.
Following this further disappointment JFJ has an increasingly arduous task to convince persons whose rights have been abused by agents of the state that they will have their cases handled professionally and competently by the various branches of the justice system including the Coroner’s courts and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
If the citizenry lose faith in the formal justice processes they will be left with no recourse but to take justice into their own hands. The DPP owes the country a proper explanation for recent events in the courts for which her office is responsible and which would give the impression that there is a lack of will to tackle the impunity for breaches of rights of citizens which the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) now enjoys.
The parents of Hapete Henry and many families like them deserve a justice system that functions effectively.