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Prosecution Says There Was Error In Aaron Rolle Custody Death Case

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

A JUDGE has reserved his decision on what remedy he may order after a Crown prosecutor yesterday conceded that there was a fundamental misdirection to a Coroner’s Court jury during an inquest of Aaron Rolle’s death in police custody.

Lawyers Lennox Coleby and Wellington Olander, representing two policemen accused of being involved in what a jury found to be Rolle’s “unlawful” killing, submitted to Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs that the term was not a verdict, in law, available to the jury at the time of the proceedings.

Up until last year’s amendment of the Coroner’s Court Act, that option was not available to the jury.

And the coroner could only make a recommendation to a higher court on whether or not a case should be criminally pursued as opposed to outright ruling on whether a death was a homicide and/or whether there should be criminal or civil liability.

Concerning the jury’s verdict, Crown respondent Ambrose Armbrister yesterday told the judge that the Crown had conceded that ground in its respondent submissions filed and served to the court.

And while Mr Armbrister disagreed with Mr Coleby’s suggestion that the verdict be substituted with the finding that Rolle’s death be determined as a result of illness, he said the alternative of ordering a new inquest presented a challenge.

Mr Armbrister also explained that even with the recent amendment to the Coroner’s Court Act, and a possible finding that the individuals be committed to stand trial, certain evidence allowed at the inquest may be deemed inadmissible at the Supreme Court.

Hearsay evidence, he noted, is allowed at inquest proceedings but would not be permitted in the Supreme Court in accordance with The Evidence Act.

The prosecutor said it was an anomaly that Parliament should rectify soon.

Senior Justice Isaacs said he would not give a summary decision on the matter given the circumstances and reserve his ruling.

Rolle, 20, died at the Southern Police Station on February 8, 2013, shortly after he was taken into custody for questioning in connection with an armed robbery and escape. A pathologist report concluded that he died from haemorrhaging and a ruptured intestine, caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.

On May 7, 2013, the jury in a Coroner’s Court inquest found Rolle’s death to be an “unlawful” killing. After the inquest, Acting Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez recommended the file be reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General to determine whether action should be taken against the officers. She also suggested that it be forwarded to Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade to conduct disciplinary proceedings against the men.

There was also a recommendation that the police force implement surveillance in interrogation rooms, with the control of cameras and recordings monitored by a separate department at police headquarters or elsewhere.

However, in July 2014, the officers involved, Police Constables 2126 Akiel Smith and 2648 Carl appealed the decision.

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