Editorial | Who were Chucky Brown’s co-conspirators?
Sometime after his December 10 sentencing, Constable Collis 'Chucky' Brown will, in all likelihood, appeal his convictions on the counts of murder, and conspiracy to murder, of which a jury last week determined he was guilty. That's the usual form in these matters.
But, whatever the ultimate outcome of this case, this newspaper believes that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, and Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), owe the public an explanation of their strategic thinking, how they proceeded against Mr Brown, and how, and if, last week's outcome will inform their approach to other members of the constabulary, of whatever rank, in related matters.
Mr Brown was first arrested in 2014 and named among 11 officers who were allegedly members of a police death squad that operated in the parish of Clarendon. INDECOM, the independent agency that investigates allegation of abuse by the security forces, was at one point probing up to 40 killings, spread over several years, believed to have been committed by members of the group. We are not clear how many of those homicides INDECOM eventually determined to be extra-judicial and worth pursuing.
However, in March 2017, Constables Brown and Roan Williams were acquitted of murdering Phaebian Dinnal and wounding another man in what prosecutors portrayed as a targeted killing, similar to how, in the current case against Mr Brown, they argued that Damoy Dawkins (2009) and Dwayne Douglas and Andrew Fearon (2012), met their deaths.
The irony of the cases against Constable Brown and, ultimately, his conviction, is that insofar that the death squad was real, its unraveling begin with his own admittance of its existence, and actions, to INDECOM investigators. That was apparently at a point when he feared that he had lost, or was losing, support of his handlers and in danger of being nabbed for the murder of a man who, having survived an earlier attempt on his life, was murdered in his hospital bed.
One dramatic difference in last year's case involving Constable Brown, and the one recently concluded, was the playing in court of recordings of the policeman outlining to INDECOM investigators the structure of the death squad, how it operated, and the support it received from senior police officers, whose names were redacted. In Constable Brown's previous trial, only transcripts of elements of the recordings were allowed.
And here is where further and better particulars would be useful from Ms Llewellyn and Mr Williams, who, we are aware, don't often share an easy relationship. It is significant that among the charges on which Constable Brown was convicted was conspiracy to murder, which assumes that he didn't act alone, but was part of a scheme that involved other person or persons.
In his unsworn statement from the dock, Constable Brown rejected the idea of a death squad. But notwithstanding the editing and redactions for the purpose of the court proceedings, it is clear that the name(s) of senior police officers, who purportedly facilitated its operation, are on the recordings made by INDECOM. These persons, if those claims are true, were party to a criminal conspiracy and would have broken their oaths as police officers charged with upholding the law. In other words, they too, should be held accountable and not only lower level police officers. If that assumption is correct, Ms Llwellyn should disclose if they are to be prosecuted and Mr Williams should say whether they were investigated and whether the information was presented to the DPP.
In 2014 the Police High Command declared ignorance of a death squad and rejected that any of its officers were part of any group that targeted people for extra-judicial killings. That may have been the High Command's information at the time. The still relatively new commissioner, Antony Anderson, should declare the constabulary's current knowledge of the matter as well as assure Jamaicans that there is no place for death squads in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.