Jamaican murder verdict stuns Diaspora
Members of South Florida’s Diaspora were shocked that a Jamaican businessman was acquitted earlier this week of all charges related to the controversial shooting death of 17-year old Kingston College student, Khajeel Mais, on the night of July 1, 2011.
Patrick Powell,59, was arrested after the shooting and murder, shooting with intent, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and failure to produce a firearm for inspection.
The prosecution contended Mais was a passenger in a taxi that collided with a BMW – X6 vehicle driven by Powell in Havendale, a St. Andrew suburb. It was alleged Powell alighted from the vehicle after it was hit, fired at the taxi, hitting and killing Mais.
During the trial which began on Oct 12 before Judge Lloyd Hibbert, the key witness for the prosecution was Wayne Wright, the taxi’s driver.
However, Wright backtracked on most of the evidence he reportedly gave the police in two statements in July, 2011, but which were not digitally recorded.
Wright repeatedly denied he gave evidence to the police and had seen Powell with a gun from which he fired three shots on the fateful night. He also denied telling the police he previously knew Mais, his passenger.
Wright was eventually declared a hostile witness based his inconsistencies, adverse testimony and attitude towards the prosecution.
Most legal experts believe the trial collapsed based on Wright’s testimony.
On Oct 24, the jury acquitted Powell after the prosecution was unable to prove without a reasonable doubt that Wright was present when Mais was shot.
The verdict caused a passionate backlash among Jamaicans in South Florida and in Jamaica. Powell’s attorney, Patrick Atkinson, former Attorney General, in countering the backlash said, “There was circumstantial evidence but certainly not enough to establish his guilt. There was a lot of real evidence around but somehow the dots were not connected for whatever reason.”
Most of the comments made by Jamaicans in South Florida were that the Justice system in Jamaica is “corrupt and inept.”
Responding to the public outcry against the Jamaican justice system Justice Minister Delroy Chuck tried to give assurances that transforming the system is among the government’s top priority. “Recent developments over the past 24 hours have again fueled national discussion on the justice system. I assure you this Government views justice as a priority….we are even more determined to fix the ailing system with a sense of urgency,” adding there is no quick fix to the system.