Policeman acquitted in trial

By LAMECH JOHNSON Tribune Staff Reporter ljohnson@tribunemedia.net A POLICEMAN accused of abetting his colleague in the assault of a prisoner who died months later was acquitted in Supreme Court yesterday. Constable Tavares Bowleg, charged with Corporal Donovan Gardiner in connection with the death of 28-year-old Desmond Key, was acquitted of his abetment charge yesterday afternoon when Justice Vera Watkins directed the nine-member jury to deliver a not guilty verdict. It is alleged that Gardiner beat father-of-six Desmond Key with a baseball bat at the Grove police station in June 2007 while Bowleg watched. Key died of his injuries seven months later. The announcement from the jury foreman came days after defence counsel Ian Cargill, Wayne Munroe and prosecutor Linda Evans held discussions with Justice Watkins last Thursday in the absence of the jury. In yesterday's proceedings, Justice Watkins returned with a decision based on her consideration of the submissions made by the three attorneys. She ruled there was not sufficient evidence for a case against Bowleg aiding or abetting the co-accused in assaulting Desmond Key on the night of June 17, 2007. As a result, she directed the jury to return a 9-0 not guilty verdict. However, regarding Gardiner, she indicated there was sufficient evidence for a case against the officer accused of manslaughter. Gardiner took the stand yesterday afternoon to give his side of the story regarding the night in question. The policeman said his colleagues for the 4pm-12 midnight shift - Constables Bowleg and Kevin Roberts - had arrived from patrol "with a young man in custody." He said that Mr Key was not giving the officers any information as to who he was which led to him doing an "intense search" of the prisoner's car to find identification. After finding Key's passport in the glove compartment, he brought it back and put it to Key to confirm his identity. After instructing officer Bowleg to run a search of "Desmond Key" in the police's database, the results showed two outstanding warrants of committals for the prisoner. The warrant, Gardiner explained, ordered the suspect to be taken directly to Her Majesty's Prison if picked up by police. At this revelation and speaking to the prisoner about it, the officer said Key tried to escape but was subdued by Bowleg though he began cursing and swearing and further resisting. He said his involvement with Key ended when he wrote a report in the station's diary which is handed to the new officer in charge of the station at the end of each shift. He denied ever having a baseball bat while in the cell with Key. He further denied hitting the prisoner with the bat in his side or his head. He also added that no superior officer asked him about the night in question until nearly three weeks later. Prosecutor Evans, in cross-examination, suggested to Gardiner that he came to the court to deceive the jury and said he was making up the story as he was going along. Gardiner disagreed with this and her other suggestion that Constable Roberts saw him with a bat in his hand or seeing him strike Key with it. Ms Evans asked the officer if there was any particular reason as to why Key was not in handcuffs while in the charge room. He replied that the charge room was an entrance to the cell block and said "we always take off the cuff in case the prisoner has to sign something." The prosecutor questioned if Key was in the room to sign a statement or "something." He said no and though he explained it was "the norm, no special reason." Gardiner admitting that Key could not be moved from the station without a physical copy of the warrant, which he claimed was delivered the same day the prisoner was taken to the hospital. The trial resumes today when Bowleg is expected to take the witness stand.


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