The in­jus­tice sys­tem and Kha­jeel Mais

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Carolyn Cooper, PhD is a spe­cial­ist on cul­ture and devel­op­ment. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and Daniel Th­waites is an at­tor­ney-at­law. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­

WHAT HAS hap­pened to the fam­ily of Kha­jeel Mais is dis­grace­ful. Af­ter this non­event of the non-trial, I feel our in­jus­tice sys­tem just de­clared him an unim­por­tant non-per­son. Five years af­ter tak­ing a bul­let to the head, the po­lice’s sus­pect has walked free, leav­ing no­body pun­ished and no other sus­pect charged.

There’s a tor­rent of com­men­tary on the case al­ready, and I have found it im­pos­si­ble to keep up with all the sto­ries, the­o­ries, in­ter­views, ac­cu­sa­tions, counter-ac­cu­sa­tions, and ex­pla­na­tions. Then, on top of this flood are waves of le­gal mumbo-jumbo pitched at an in­censed pub­lic, in­tend­ing, so far as I can tell, to impress upon them the idea that their anger is il­le­git­i­mate and the re­sult of ju­ridi­cal ig­no­rance.

It cer­tainly ap­pears that skil­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tors would have gath­ered a great deal of ev­i­dence, per­haps cir­cum­stan­tial, that could have been pre­sented by prose­cu­tors. Was there paint on the cars thought to be in­volved in the col­li­sion? If some­one ab­sconded right af­ter the in­ci­dent, was that planned travel? The un­avail­abil­ity of the firearm raises very many is­sues, and some neg­a­tive in­fer­ences, par­tic­u­larly if that un­avail­abil­ity was pro­cured by the ac­cused.

Plus, if what the taxi man, Wayne Wright, says is true, and that he was in­duced to sign empty pages for a fraud­u­lent state­ment, the ar­rest of at least one po­lice­man ought to be im­mi­nent. If what he says is false, I an­tic­i­pate charges against him.

But is the pub­lic mis­taken? In the in­ter­views that I have been lucky enough to catch, I was as­ton­ished to learn that of­fi­cial wis­dom is that all per­formed their jobs well through­out this saga.


The DPP con­grat­u­lated her of­fice and the po­lice force. She did, how­ever, level some care­fully worded gen­eral crit­i­cisms of the de­fence Bar and, to my ears at any rate, up­braid the pub­lic for such things as fail­ing to keep its moral com­pass prop­erly tuned and be­ing cor­ruptly un­en­thu­si­as­tic about giv­ing ev­i­dence.

The chief of po­lice thanked and con­grat­u­lated his of­fi­cers and in­ves­ti­ga­tors on a job well done.

De­fence coun­sel was grate­ful that the jus­tice sys­tem worked, lev­el­ling se­ri­ous crit­i­cisms at the news me­dia for car­ry­ing in­for­ma­tion sug­gest­ing it was a clear case. I’ve been told, though I haven’t heard it my­self, that they have some sear­ing crit­i­cisms of the DPP, too.

The Firearm Li­cens­ing Author­ity, which also, un­doubt­edly, did a good job, had no bal­lis­tic sig­na­ture recorded for the firearm in ques­tion.

Sens­ing, no doubt, the crescendo of out­rage, the min­is­ter of jus­tice has as­sured us that he is aware of the scan­dal. I have ev­ery rea­son to think he is sin­cere. How­ever, I gen­uinely won­der what he can do to give re­dress here.

Ev­ery­one, there­fore, seems to have worked well, and they could all con­grat­u­late each other and head home to have a nice cup o’ tea, ex­cept for one lit­tle un­re­solved prob­lem: Some­one has

IIspilled the in­nards of a 17-year-old on to a taxi seat, and in the land of wood, water, and ‘de run­nings’, there’s zero re­dress for it.

In­deed, peo­ple have drawn the con­clu­sion that if you have enough money, or the right links, you can buy out the sys­tem or buy the best lawyers. And while that has been a long-stand­ing con­cern on this Rock, there’s a wide­spread feel­ing that it’s been a long time since it’s been dis­played as raw and in yuh face as this.

My el­dest son is the age of Kha­jeel, so I have thought about this, and I in­vite you to con­sider: If some­one were to shoot your child in the head, what would you do? Wouldn’t you want to hurt them or their fam­ily in re­turn?

Well, that is how it goes in less so­phis­ti­cated so­ci­eties where there isn’t even the pre­tence at a more so­phis­ti­cated jus­tice sys­tem. If you kill one of my peo­ple, my tribe will de­clare war on your tribe, hop­ing to kill very many of you. You can imag­ine the tremen­dous ad­vance to even reach the point of say­ing, “an eye for an eye’, and if you kill my son, I will kill your son.


So a jus­tice sys­tem, if it is to con­vince me that an at­tack on my fam­ily ought not to be answered by re­tal­i­a­tion, is based on trust and con­fi­dence.

I need some con­fi­dence that there will be a fair, im­par­tial, and thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the facts. That’s the job of the po­lice.

Then I need to trust that the State will ad­vo­cate for me and hold the per­pe­tra­tor to ac­count by mar­shalling the facts and pre­sent­ing my case. That’s the job of the DPP.

Then I have to be con­fi­dent that an em­pow­ered judge will hear my case and care­fully con­sider what comes be­fore him.

I want to see the so­ci­ety ex­press re­vul­sion at cold-blooded mur­der and to pun­ish the per­pe­tra­tor. That per­pe­tra­tor didn’t only hurt me, but hurt the whole so­ci­ety, and pun­ish­ment lev­elled by the so­ci­ety stands in place of the pun­ish­ment that I would have wanted to ex­act.

Ev­ery­thing in that pic­ture has been vi­o­lated. And peo­ple have the sus­pi­cion that this is hap­pen­ing all the time, even if not al­ways in this egre­gious and ob­vi­ous way.

So I think the pub­lic’s fury is jus­ti­fied at this com­pound fail­ure. This non-trial is a re­flec­tion of Ja­maica’s deep and per­sis­tent short­com­ings and has brought the sys­tem into de­served dis­re­pute.

If we as a peo­ple in charge of our own af­fairs for 54 years and count­ing lack the ca­pac­ity to sat­is­fac­to­rily han­dle this mur­der of a 17-year-old on his way to a party, we may want to con­sider – like UWI – rein­vest­ing author­ity with the Queen. We are fail­ing.

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