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‘POLICE WHO BEAT ME MUST BE INVESTIGATED’: Man calls for officers to be held to account after trial thrown out

By LYNAIRE MUNNINGS

Tribune Staff Reporter

lmunnings@tribunemedia.net

A MAN whose armed robbery trial was thrown out after a judge refused to accept the prosecution’s evidence of his confession, wants the officers who allegedly tortured him to be investigated and held accountable, saying it is not enough that the charges against him were dropped.

Javis Smith said after he was arrested on October 31, 2018, police beat him with a cutlass on his buttocks, put a fish bag over his head, and poured hot sauce in his eyes so he would confess to armed robbery.

In a recent court ruling, Justice Gregory Hilton refused to allow the confession to be submitted as evidence, saying the prosecution did not fulfil its burden to prove that the confession was obtained willingly and not under duress. The prosecution consequently withdrew its charges because the confession was the only evidence in the case.

Claims of torture for confessions are not new, with defence lawyers saying for years that it is a human rights problem for the country.

“All of them know the things their co-workers do to people while in their care, but everyone just goes along with them and remains silent,” Mr Smith said yesterday.

Mr Smith, who is represented by attorney David Cash, said he thought he would die in police custody.

“They locked me up and carried me to the police station, then CDU came for me, and then I went to CDU, and they asked me all kinds of questions and things,” he said.

“The first day I went, I told them I didn’t know what they were talking about and then after that, they started beating me, telling me all types of things. I thought the beating was gonna never stop.”

“I try to figure out like, why me? Why is this happening to me? But, thank God, I made it through.”

Mr Smith said he endured verbal abuse in police custody: “I ain’t ga lie they tell me, they so many hurtful things.”

“They tell me so many things. I ain’t ga lie they tell me so many hurtful things,” he said yesterday.

Justice Hilton identified several concerns with the prosecution’s defence of its efforts to submit the confession as evidence.

“After having considered the evidence of the Crown,” he wrote, “I am concerned that there was no satisfactory explanation for the accused who was arrested and interviewed on 31 October 2018 and 1st November 2018 not to be taken to court until 5th November 2018, particularly as there was what purports to be a full confession by the accused on 1st November 2018.”

 “What is the reason for the accused being kept in custody for that length of time? I am considering this in the context of the accused’s allegation that he was being beaten with a cutlass to his buttocks, and being kept in custody for the length of time would lessen any visible signs of injury.”

 Justice Hilton also alluded to a Privy Council ruling last year where the appellate judges expressed “deep concern” after finding that a man was languishing in prison for over 12 years based on a confession that should not have been admitted as evidence. The Privy Council highlighted the improbability that an appellant would voluntarily confess, without a lawyer, to several crimes absent independent evidence.

 Justice Hilton wrote: “In addition to the fact that in the present case, the accused was subjected to interviews on four separate offences within the space of eight hours and voluntarily confessed to all of them without a lawyer and without being confronted with any independent evidence, there is the fact that for the present offence, he has made a complete denial less than twenty-four hours earlier in a Record of Interview conducted by Cpl. Walkes, without any reason proffered by the police for him to make a full confession the next day.

 “It is inherently improbable that the subsequent records of interview and statement could be obtained in circumstances that were not oppressive.”

 Mr Smith said yesterday that when cases like his are thrown out in such circumstances, officers should be investigated, and their prospects for growth should be stalled.

 “They can’t keep getting away doing wrong to people,” he said.

Comments

mandela 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Yes, they certainly should be investigated, the police force are loaded with D and E average officers who can hardly read or write and definitely cannot conduct an investigation of a crime and bring charges on evidence alone, so they beat and torture to get a confession, not only should they be investigated but also sued

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Sickened 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I agree with you Mandela. However, how can this be properly investigate when it probably happened soooo many years ago. No pictures, no video, just his word against the police. I'm sure these things happened because everyone knows of someone where this truly happened. But to throw out a case just because police beat the crap out of someone??? Surely there was more evidence than just his forced confession?
I'm really not sure why we celebrate the last 50 years because we have only gotten worse in EVERY aspect during that period. If it wasn't for big foreign owned hotels and cruise ships, we would be a 21 X 7 shanty town.

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pt_90 1 month, 3 weeks ago

This is the issue. His claim fits more in the timeline of events and they likely had nothing else. The judge said it also. Bad police work on full display.

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 3 weeks ago

"But to throw out a case just because police beat the crap out of someone???"

That is exactly why cases get thrown out. You cannot torture someone to confess and expect a court of law to accept the confession. Their statement is unreliable because tortured people are liable to say anything to stop the torture.

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Sickened 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I'm thinking more of scenarios where the police catch a suspect in the act (say molesting a child) and they beat him badly (because he deserves it). Should the case get thrown out just because the guilty person got a cut hip? Or should the guilty person be thrown in jail AND the police officers get disciplined for the beating?

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rosiepi 1 month, 3 weeks ago

In your scenario, not necessarily. Remember this charge was not tossed solely on the fact that police had beaten a confession out of him, but because that confession was the only ‘evidence’ against him. And likely why the police beat him.

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John 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Or how about a case where a nonBahamian boat captain shoots two senior police officers with a shotgun. One in khaki uniform and he is given bail and set free without even putting a foot in a courtroom. And set free with a clear understanding that he will not return to court or face trial even though the evidence against him as as clear as the sun is bright in September In crime, color matters and nationality matters. And the white peoples go free. Ask the ole Fort Bay resident who killed her husband . The case against the unfortunate victim wasn’t thrown out because the police beat him black and blue and tell him about his ma and wat they did to her. And forced him to confess to FOUR different crimes in a matter of hours, It was thrown out because when the judge refused to accept the confession and the police withdrew the confession, THE POLICE HAD NO OTHER EVIDENCE!

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Your operative words were, "because when the judge refused to accept the confession..". One reason a judge might not accept a confession is evidence of torture. Another might be mental incapacity.

Where do people get their facts these days???

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Yes. Unless they have video evidence that that is what happened or the victim identifies the man a lineup, he gets off Scott free.

I'm surprised that so many people think confessions can be coerced. The CIA learned this in 911. People will say anything to stop the torture. And no judge with evidence a suspect was tortured would accept the confession.

Police need to hone their investigative techniques

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hrysippus 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Ideally every room in every police station should have cctv recorded off site. All "confessions" should be videotaped. This is what happens in civilized countries, those countries still have evil policemen but there are less reported incidents of police abuse.

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pt_90 1 month, 3 weeks ago

That would require the police and powers that be to admit that there is problem.

That would require transparency. The govt has told us there is no need for FOIA requests. Why would they want to record interviews and publish them.

We are so stuck in old ways its staggering.

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 3 weeks ago

This is a sad matter but I have heard it before

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John 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Just recently a man was released from a US jail after. Serving FIFTY years for a murder he didn’t commit. And yesterday another man who was found guilty of FIVE murders spent eight hours in the ‘death chamber’ as efforts to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection failed. No the question is should his death penalty be reduced because of unnecessary and ‘inhumane punishment’ or should the state use the alternate form of carrying out the death penalty. That is death by a firing squad. . . The stories of police beating suspects are numerous and some no less than barbaric. Some have left innocent victims with broken legs and arms and ribs, head and neck injuries and internal bleeding and organ damage. Not to mention the emotional trauma. There have been reports of innocent young men. Some even school age being picked up by police, detained, beaten savagely and made to sign confessions. Some were just released after a weekend of torture and some were released after 48 hours and re arrested and kept in jail until their wounds healed somewhat. Being beaten with a cutless, a metal chair, pieces of 2x4 wood, being tied to a metal chair that was attached to an electrical cord and shocked until passing out or having one’s testicles locked in the jaws of a pair of ‘wide grips’ are just some of reports. And more than half the victims were innocent. In 2024 one would think the police would spend more resources on training its officers in the procedures of proper investigation and not still resort to the barbaric processes of torture they employ today. Not long ago police were accused of tossing suspects in a canal after being told they could not swim in an effort to get them to confess. One of the suspects managed to survive.

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John 1 month, 3 weeks ago

The police version was that the suspects jumped in the canal trying to escape.

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SP 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Amnesty International and the U.S. authorities are well aware that police brutality and torturing suspects is a well known fact in the Bahamas.

The officers along with their superiors should charged and dismissed! Police have gotten away with torturing people for confessions with the blessings of politicians since the British colonized the Bahamas.

Post colonization nothing has changed in the Bahamas. The same players continue exploiting our natural resources and bribing our greedy, crooked, politicians to turn a blind eye while the country at large disintegrates.

Trusting politicians, the police, or judicial system, is totally out of the question.

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