WAS IT THE LUCK OF THE IRISH?

For centuries, the Irish have been the butt of jokes, some more cruel than others; none kind; whose punch line is stereotypical Irish dimwittedness.

One of the best I’ve heard was told by brilliant Irish stand up comedian Hal Roach.  Paddy, on vacation in Dublin, found himself thoroughly tested by a conversation with a cabbie. The cabbie tried him with a riddle “It’s not me brodder; it’s not me sister; it’s de child of me father and me mother.  Who is it?”  Paddy wracked his brain but couldn’t come up with the answer.  “I give up” he said upon which the cabbie gleefully reported “It’s me!!”

Back home in Galway, Paddy is in the pub having a drink or five with his friend Mick.  “Mick” he says “it’s not me brodder; it’s not me sister; it’s de child of me father and me mother.  Who is it?”

“Why that’s you, Paddy” said Mick with some relish.  Paddy, rolling on the floor with laughter, countered “No, ye feckin idiot, it’s a taxi driver in Dublin!”

About two months ago, this story flashed across my mind as I read the Gleaner’s report of a Digicel executive’s testimony in a high profile murder case.  Now that the verdict is in, I can comment on the report which quoted the Executive asserting he had “prepared a statement along with two computer CDs containing data extracted from Digicel’s system on 40 telephone numbers.” (Gleaner, January 13; Digicel exec testifies about missing disc..).  Apparently, although sealed for evidence, one vital CD had gone “missing”.

According to Gleaner reports, the Executive said “….without the missing disc, there’s no way to prove what the police did to the second disk now in the court’s possession.”

The reportage of this trial has been most disappointing for me.  In the good old days, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the Gleaner Law Reports were relied upon by Judges, one could expect a fairly rational report of legal proceedings based on which one could get a full picture of what happened in court.  Trials are supposed to be public but the courtrooms are small with minimal accommodations for visitors.  So it’s the media’s responsibility to bring the trial to readers/listeners/viewers as fulsomely as possible.

Yet, the day after this sensational report of the missing CD, the Gleaner blithely reports on evidence being led from the telephone tapes (apparently based on the contents of that second disc) without explaining how the difficulty was overcome or the apparent chain of custody issues resolved.

Thereafter, media has merrily repeated salacious subsequent evidence including messages allegedly sent while the instrument was in police custody without a single query regarding how this CD went “missing”.  Is it notorious Irish stupidity?  Or notorious Jamaican corruption?  Surely, documents, “sealed for evidence” (see The Gleaner; January 14; ‘Lizard’ begged girlfriend to call cops) can’t be left in the custody of prospective witnesses?  They should be in police custody.

Why is Digicel appearing to fall on its corporate sword without a murmur in this one?  Why isn’t an immediate investigation launched by Indecom, the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jamaicans for Justice for Some; MOCA, POCA and SOCA?  How come there’ve been no 5.00 a.m. raids (live on TV) with files swept up and taken into police custody? 

Much of what has been reported about this trial disturbs me deeply. But, first, I want to commend Jeremy Taylor, a young lawyer for whom I have the highest regard and who is obviously a future D.P.P., for his exemplary conduct (again, I’m depending on media reports) of what must have been a very difficult case.  Like many Jamaicans, I have a gut feeling that “Lizard” is dead; that he was the victim of foul play; and that at least some of those accused of his murder know a lot more about it than they’re admitting.  I weep for none of the convicted.

But, there are some disturbing signposts for the future of Jamaican justice coming out of this trial.  Based on media reports, there was no body.  There was in evidence a letter allegedly written by the star prosecution “eye-witness” contradicting his evidence in chief that “Lizard” died on that fateful day in that fateful house.  The expert who identified the witness’ signature on that letter, although rigorously cross-examined by Mr Taylor, wasn’t contradicted by any expert evidence led by the prosecution and was himself an expert witness often used at trials by the D.P.P’s office.  Again, according to media reports, the “eye-witness” didn’t see anybody strike “Lizard” (he was hiding in another room) and his evidence that, upon his exit from that room, “Lizard” was “lifeless” is a non-medical opinion.

Finally, the time stamp on at least one of the infamous text messages (which can be inaccurate but wasn’t directly attacked by evidence) suggests that the message used to incriminate the accused citizens was sent after the phone was in police custody.  And nobody except an allegedly corrupted juror has reasonable doubt?  But, how was this alleged corruption accomplished?  Was the jury sequestered?  If not, why not?  The case was sufficiently high profile that police took anti-IRA type precautions to avoid public disorder but nobody anticipated that the jury needed equal protection from possible corrupt advances?

Yet, Commissioner Ellington is quoted as hailing the matter as “…a victory for an acceptable public morality” and asserted “we have every good reason to have faith in our justice system.” DWL! 

D.P.P., Paula Llewellyn, not obvious at the trial until Friday, spoke to every available camera or microphone: “Our [judicial] system was on trial,” she said “but I’d like to think that what Jamaica and the international arena has been reminded of is that, notwithstanding all the challenges, there are persons in the system… who have integrity and who are committed to public service above self.”  Right, Paula, like the allegedly corrupted juror and whoever in the system succeeded in contacting and corrupting him.

I’m sorry but very little about this trial and its outcome fills me with confidence about our justice system.  Despite an experienced Judge taking a week to summarize 70 days’ evidence, the jury sifts through same in less than two hours?  Am I alone in sensing minds were made up before deliberations were attempted?  Was there a generation-gap induced bias?  Were Defence witnesses discredited due to association with Vybz Kartel’s violent lyrics?  Did any other accused citizen suffer from that bleached association?  Or was everybody just in a hurry to start Friday night drinks?

Which reminds me of another tall tale.  The scene:  an English pub.  Three patriotic friends are chatting idly after their fifth pint:

“As good as this bar is,” said the Scotsman, “I still prefer the pubs back home.
In Glasgow, there’s a wee place called McTavish’s.   The landlord goes out of his way for the locals.  When you buy four drinks, he’ll buy the fifth drink.”

“Well, Angus,” said the Englishman, “At my local the Red Lion in London;
the barman will buy you your third drink after you pay for the first two.”

“Ahhh, dat’s nuttin’,” said Paddy, the Irishman.  “Back home in me favourite pub in Galway, the moment ye set foot in the place, they’ll buy you a drink,
then another, all the drinks you like, actually. Then, when you’ve had enough drinks, they’ll take you upstairs and see dat you get ‘taken care of’ (wink, wink), if ye get me drift, all on the house!”

The other two were suspicious. “Did this actually happen to you?”

“Not meself, personally, no,” Paddy admitted, “but it did happen to me sister quite a few times.”

Peace and Love

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