ODPP Press Release: Reasons for the Offering of No Evidence and Subsequent Acquittal of Two Police Officers…

This is a press release issued by the Office of the Director Public Prosecutions (ODPP) in response to the Michael Scarlett case in which JFJ had previously issued a press release.

6th    March   2013

 

                    MEDIA RELEASE

RE:  REASONS FOR THE OFFERING OF NO EVIDENCE AND SUBSEQUENT

ACQUITAL OF TWO POLICE OFFICERS IN THE SHOOTING DEATH

OF MICHAEL SCARLETT ON APRIL 9, 2002

Concerns have been expressed from civil society including Jamaicans for Justice in respect of how the matter of the Regina vs. Evon Blake and Warren Massey (two police officers) was disposed of by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP)  after it had been referred for the initiation of prosecution for the offence of murder by a Coroner’s Jury in January 2013.

The Office of the DPP preferred an indictment charging both accused for the murder of Michael Scarlett and after detailed perusal of the depositions and statements on file I instructed that a jury be empanelled and no evidence offered.  After the assigned assistant Director of Public Prosecutions outlined the case to the jury, upon offering no evidence, the learned high court judge directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty in respect of both accused.

In the interest of transparency and accountability I now outline the reasons for the decision by the ODPP which led to no evidence being offered and the accused being discharged.

  1. Constable Evon Blake and Corporal Warren Massey were charged for the offence of murder arising out of a shooting which took place at the home of Mr Michael Scarlett in the Brook Valley Housing Scheme, Duhaney Park, St. Andrew.  This shooting took place on April 9, 2002.
  2. A Coroner’s Jury heard evidence in this matter between January 2011 and May 2012.  After hearing evidence, the Jury formed the view that Corporal Massey and Constable Blake should be held criminally liable for the death of Mr. Michael Scarlett.
  3. Based on the decision of the Jury, a Coroner’s warrant was served upon both Accused persons on January 25, 2013.
  4. A detailed examination of ALL the material on file with the accompanying legal research was embarked upon by Crown Counsel assigned to deal with the matter.  I was consulted and the issues arising as well as the law were discussed.  Thereafter, I concurred with the Assistant Director’s legal opinion that the Crown would not be able to mount a viable prosecution.  Instructions were given for a jury to be empanelled and no evidence offered.
  5. On February 6, 2013 when the matter came before the Home Circuit Court (HCC) for trial, a Jury was empanelled and the Crown offered No Evidence against the Accused persons Blake and Massey.
  6. This course was adopted in keeping with the highest level of prosecutorial best practices.  The Crown is mandated to present before the court cogent evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in an effort to discharge its legal burden.  The Crown can only discharge this burden by placing before the Court and Jury, witnesses who can show that the Accused before the court committed the offence as charged.

With respect to the offence of Murder for which these persons were charged the Crown must establish:-

1)       death of the deceased;

2)       that it was the Accused who killed him;

3)       by a voluntary or deliberate act;

4)       that the Accused intended to kill or inflict really serious bodily injury; and

5)       that the Accused acted without lawful justification i.e. not acting in lawful self-defence.

It follows that establishing that the Accused did not act in lawful self-defence is a legal burden which the Crown must discharge before the case can be left to the Jury for their deliberation and finding(s) of fact.

In the case against the Accused persons, Blake and Massey, the Crown had no evidence to establish that the Accused persons were not acting in lawful self-defence.

From the account of the relative of Mr. Scarlett who was at the house immediately before he received his fatal injuries, she did not see how he came by these injuries.  She cannot in any way refute, challenge or shake the assertion of the Accused persons that Mr. Scarlett pointed a firearm at them and it is in those circumstances that they fatally wounded Mr. Scarlett.  The law empowers each and every citizen to act in defence of themselves, others and in respect of the protection of their property.

The prosecution must discharge its responsibility to the Court and the general citizenry irrespective of their status or station in life.  Each person, police or civilian has a constitutional right to a fair trial.  In keeping with prosecutorial ethics and best practices, Crown Counsel must be a Minister of Justice and where no case subsists by law, the Crown must do what is required and offer no evidence (Please see Prosecution’s Protocol at www.dpp.gov.jm).

It cannot be overemphasised that the decision to offer no evidence in a matter is only adopted after careful and detailed analysis is made of the case: the relevant law, as well as the evidence at the Crown’s disposal to prove its case.  It must always be remembered that each case must be assessed on its own merit.

Where there is no evidence to mount a viable prosecution to the requisite standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, the Crown, as a matter of law, cannot advance a case and therefore offers ‘No Evidence’.

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