KINGSTON – Two police officers who were alleged to be members of a police “death squad” were yesterday freed of murder and wounding charges after they were found not guilty in the Home Circuit Court.
Corporal Roan Morrison and Constable Collis Brown were unanimously found not guilty on both counts by a seven-member jury, following five weeks of trial before Justice Jennifer Straw.
The jury deliberated for almost two hours before arriving at a not-guilty verdict.
The policemen were arrested and charged following the shooting death of Phaebian Dinnal and the injuring of another man on Windsor Avenue in May Pen, Clarendon, in February 2010.
Corporal Morrison was accused of killing Dinnal, while Constable Brown was accused of injuring the other man.
Before the verdict was handed down, the usually confident-looking Constable Brown, whose father passed away on Tuesday evening, appeared very sad. However, following the not-guilty verdict, was seen smiling along with his colleague while they sat in the dock.
An elated Corporal Morrison told the Jamaica Observer that he was not surprised by the outcome.
“It was really testing for all of us but, based on the trumped-up charges that were laid against us, I had no doubt about the outcome and I am pleased with the outcome and I am sure that justice has been served,” he said.
Attorney Vincent Wellesley, who had represented Morrison along with Althea Freeman, said he had not only expected the verdict but had also prayed about it because of the ‘challenges’ he faced with the presiding judge.
He said the case should have been dismissed.
“… There was no evidence that my client murdered anyone, or shot anyone. It ought not to have been placed before the jury; the judge should have accepted our no-case submission because the main witness was totally discredited and destroyed,” said the attorney.
Constable Brown, who remains in custody on other murder charges in connection with the alleged death squad, declined to comment but was overheard telling someone that he was sorry that his father died while he was in custody.
His brother, who requested anonymity, said that the family was very happy in spite of the loss of their father, whose death may have resulted from his brother’s arrest.
“I am assuming that it impacted on him so much that he just probably gave way,” he said.
“It can’t replace our loss but we are happy and we hope that by God’s grace the other charges” will be dismissed.
Brown’s lawyer, Norman Godfrey, who was also happy with the verdict, said, “The jury has arrived at a true verdict regarding the evidence.”
When asked how his client was coping with the recent death of his father, he said, “He is trying to deal with it as best as he can.”
During the trial the main witness, in one of his two versions that were presented before the court, said he was walking alone when Brown, who was in the company of two other officers, shot him at close range.
The witness said after being shot he heard two explosions after seeing Morrison exit the car with an M16 rifle.
However, the police officers, in their unsworn statements, had maintained that they went to Windsor Avenue after receiving information about men robbing and extorting people and saw four men, who shot at them.
Constable Brown said two of the men pulled weapons and shot at them and he, in turn, fired at them.
Corporal Morrison, for his part, said the men started firing immediately after seeing the police and that there was an exchange of gunshots, but he took “evasive action”.
The crown was led by attorney Ann-Marie Fuertado Richards, who had obtained a fiat to prosecute the matter.