Quest for justice
JACKSON … all the tears that I never got to shed started rolling down my face (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
Human rights issues surrounding the fatal shooting of 29-year-old cookshop operator Nakiea Robert Jackson in 2014 may have been laid to rest with him on Thursday when the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court threw out the case for lack of evidence.
But Jackson’s sister, Shackelia, a virtual one-woman advocacy against what she felt was his wrongful death, and who has been constantly travelling between her home in the United States and Kingston seeking justice for her brother, says she is not backing down until the decision is reversed.
Jackson was killed by the police on January 20, 2014, while he was serving food at his small cookshop on Orange Street, in the Orange Villa area of downtown Kingston.
His killing became a major human rights issue at the time, as members of the Orange Villa community openly displayed their anger at his death, despite apologies that he may have been killed in error.
Crowds protested by blocking Orange Street and setting fire to the garbage blockade.
The State responded with visits from then Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Philip Paulwell (representing then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller), then National Security Minister Peter Bunting, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston Western, Desmond McKenzie, then Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, as well as endless apologies for the way in which Jackson was killed.
Paulwell, McKenzie and a team from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were also special guests at Jackson’s funeral on February 22 on Orange Street, downtown Kingston.
“It is because of a criminal act why we are here this morning,” McKenzie told the mourners.
He also recalled Jackson as a young man who “had fed many people and was loved by those who knew and came in contact with him”.
Eventually, a special constable, Leighton Rose, who was attached to Area Four, was charged with the murder of Jackson and the proceedings began in court in February 2014. Stop orders were placed on the accused cop and he was ordered to surrender his travel documents and to stay away from the Orange Villa community.
But Jackson’s case was booted out of the Corporate Area criminal court on July 7.
Investigations by the Jamaica Observer revealed that there were three witnesses available at the beginning of the trial. However, while two were available up to Thursday, one refused to attend the hearings claiming that he feared for his life.
The Independent Commission for Investigations (INDECOM) informed the
Sunday Observer yesterday that several attempts were made to get the reluctant witness to turn up at court, especially after the presiding magistrate insisted that he was the only important witness relative to the trial.
INDECOM’s investigator, Nigel Morgan, said that despite the commission’s best efforts, they could not get the witness to resume attending court after he stopped turning up claiming that he had been threatened.
“He is still at large, because a subpoena was issued for him to attend court,” Morgan told the Sunday Observer. He also confirmed that the case was dismissed by the Parish Judge.
“The magistrate has full charge of the court. It’s her preliminary enquiry and in this case there was a particular witness which she felt was important to arriving at a decision, but despite our best efforts the witness refused to come to court,” Morgan said.
He added that he has spoken to Jackson about her options and that INDECOM will be looking into the matter to see if it could get the case to proceed.
“I spoke to her and told her that we will look at the issues and seek possible recourses, and I will advise her,” he said.
But Jackson’s sister, Shackelia, said that prior to last Thursday’s court date she always felt that the matter would have followed the normal legal route and result in a decision by the judge to refer the case to the Supreme (Home Circuit) Court for trial.
“I called my brother’s brother (on Thursday) and I asked, ‘What’s going on?’ He started telling me some of the things that the judge was saying, and I said, ‘Don’t worry about that, we will do what is in the best interest of my brother’,” she said.
“He started telling me what was happening and I told him how we would respond, and then I said, ‘So when is the next court date?’ Because I had gotten so used to the adjournments. But then he said, ‘next court date? There is no Next court date. The judge dismissed it.’ I said’, You’re kidding me!’ And that was it,” she told the Sunday Observer yesterday.
“All the tears that I never got to shed started rolling down my face,” she added.
Jackson said that she found it alarming that, despite the fact that there were three witnesses, the judge insisted on the only one who was not cooperating.