Its February 19, 2014.
There is animation and anxiety in the 200 metre space around the Supreme Court on King Street in downtown Kingston. In courtroom number 2, Vybz Kartel sits in the dock with his co-accused as prosecutor Jeremy Taylor prepares to rubbish the closing argument of defence attorney, Tom Tavares Finson who acts for Kartel. The case has been going on since November 20, 2013 – we are nearing the end. The stakes are high. Security is tight as I have never seen it before.
At the King Street entrance to the Supreme Court main gate a member of the Island Special Constabulary Force is busy frisking with his small hand held machine every person who tries to enter the precincts of the Supreme Court. A female member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force stands with him.
In a hideout spot on Church Street very close to the parking lot of the Supreme Court, a police car is parked. A small group of about 5 members of the police force are seen keeping guard at the entrance to the parking lot. Tower Street is blocked – a barricade in the road is manned by a police on foot. There is a team of others not far away. Police personnel are sprawled out atop service vehicles on Tower Street – their high powered weapons are on cock. King Street is blocked in front of the Khemlani Store. No one enters King Street unless the response to a question from the police is satisfactory. Downtown is on edge. The precise reason is not known to many.
There are whispers that the police had intelligence overnight. Intelligence is as intelligence is – secret.
Court is about to resume its morning session. The eleven member panel of jurors takes seat in the box. The judge arrives. Jury is again asked to leave. Christian Tavares Finson wishes to address the court in the absence of the jury. Something weighs heavily on him. In the normal course of a trial, I do not report matters that transpire in the absence of the jury but these matters are later repeated in their presence hence my reporting of Christian’s burden that weighed him down.
He stands and says to the judge - I am very distressed to see the approach the police have taken this morning – extra police personnel who have descend on the building.
Judge – are you privy to intel the police has – is the judge’s almost impatient reply.
Christian – I am not My Lord but this scenario that bothers me – media representatives have identification, lawyers have identification, workers have to provide identification cards but jurors have to disclose that they are jurors to get unto the Supreme Court complex and that is very irregular and dangerous. Additionally, the family of the accused have been prevented from entering the building. There is no indication as to the reason this is so. I do no know that there is any order from this court.
Judge – other considerations may be that the police may be aware of. We are not centre of Jamaica. And you had better direct your questions elsewhere.
Christian – Very well My Lord but I want the record to reflect my concern.
The members of the jury are now called back inside. That is not the end of the matter. Christian’s father, Tom Tavares Finson, the lead attorney for Kartel is to raise the matter after the mid morning adjournment – this time in the presence of the jury.
Tom – My Lord, I am not sure if it has been brought to your attention that family members of the accused have been denied entry to this morning’s sitting of this court.
Judge – it was brought to my attention. The police may have done that for whatever reason they see it fit. I do not know there’s anything I can do.
Tom – I can’t imagine that Your Lordship is ceding authority on this matter.
Judge – I am doing no such thing. I have no intel
Tom – it is unfair that my client’s family has been coming to court to watch the proceedings. Today when they come here and where they have been sitting is occupied by members of constabulary
Judge – no one has any seat in these courts
Tom – I know no one has seat My Lord but the family of accused are being prevented from coming into court premises and court house and the family of others are here.
Judge – I will direct you to speak to police. And I will do the same.
Tom – I am saying I will not speak with The POLICE - I ask for your intervention.
At the end of the session, the judge calls the superintendent and says ‘I have been made to understand that members of public some related to the family of accused have been denied entry. I don’t know the reason if any. What I will say is that every Jamaican citizen has a right to the court unless security forces have some reason that could interfere with the rule of court. I wish for you to bear that in mind. I can’t give any instructions as I don’t know what your intelligence is. But I ask you to consider the rights of the citizens regarding access to court. I wish for you to bear that in mind’.
Mr Tavares Finson is later to announce to the court that during lunch he had discussions two police personnel – Superintendent Pinnock and Ellis who reported there was ‘a breakdown in communication and I accept what they have said’.
Judge – do you believe if you had gone to them before the matter would have been dealt with
Tom – No My Lord because it was because of what transpired in court why they came to me.