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Jamaica Counter Gang Symposium and Trial Preparation Seminar



1.     Executive Summary

 

1.1.          On April 26-28, 2024, the Caribbean Anti-Crime Program, funded by INL and implemented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) hosted a Counter Gang Symposium and Trial Preparation Seminar for Jamaican law enforcement professionals and prosecutors in Kingston.  

 

1.2.          The two-part program aimed to increase regional security by building capacity to effectively combat gang-related crime through peer-to-peer discussions, case studies, and sharing of practical strategies. 


1.3.          The program was facilitated by a team of highly experienced gang investigation and prosecution experts from the Queens County District Attorney’s Office (New York) Violent Crime Bureau, New York City Police Department, and NCSC along with assistance from personnel at the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).

 

1.4.          The training participants included 67 members of law enforcement and prosecutors from various agencies and ministries tasked with countering gangs and gang activity in Jamaica, including personnel from the NPCJ, JCF, ODPP, Department of Correctional Services (DCS), Major Organized Crime & Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), and the Financial Investigation Division (FID).

 

1.5.          Remarks at the opening ceremony were delivered by Dr. Jaidev Singh, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy Kingston, as well as the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions and the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

 

 

2.     Jamaica Context

 

2.1.          In response to the Government of Jamaica’s request for assistance from the U.S. government to assist with countering a burgeoning gang problem and building capacity for use of the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act of 2014, amended in 2021, to investigate and prosecute gang crime, INL funded Justice Sector Assistance and successor CAC, implemented by NCSC, conducted workshops in Jamaica in 2015, 2016, 2020, 2021, 2023 to deliver capacity building training for effective law enforcement and prosecution of gang related cases and for judges adjudicating complex multi-defendant cases.

 

2.2.          Prior to 2023, Jamaica had limited success in prosecuting gang cases using the anti-gang legislation. An assessment conducted by NCSC in June through September 2021 identified challenges and barriers to successful investigations and prosecutions. Major issues identified were lack of inter-agency coordination, incomplete or inadmissible evidence gathered by law enforcement, challenges with victim and witness handling, and an overall need for practical training for law enforcement and prosecutors.   This Symposium aimed to build upon these prior CAC trainings.

 

2.3.          In 2023, Jamaican prosecutors and investigators scored a historic win against gangs in Jamaica when 15 of the 33 defendants were found guilty of gang-related crimes in the One Don Clansman case. Amongst the crimes convicted included violations of Jamaica’s anti-gang legislation for gang membership and murder.  

 

 

2.4.          Despite successes in the One Don Clansman case, Jamaica remains a country plagued by gang violence.  In January 2024, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory classifying Jamaica as a Level 3: Reconsider Travel citing that violent crime, including armed robberies and murders, are common and that the homicide rate in Jamaica is among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

 

2.5.          After major gang takedown successes in Queens County, New York, INL Kingston requested that the Queens District Attorney’s Office and New York City Police Department conduct a program for Jamaican investigators and prosecutors to share best practices and interagency coordination. 

 

3.     Activities

 

3.1.          The two-part program was divided in two different programs:  the Counter Gang Symposium and the Trial Preparation Seminar.

 

3.2.          Part 1:  Counter Gang Symposium.  During the Symposium, the facilitators used a case study to transfer knowledge and discuss challenges and multi-agency solutions to investigating and prosecuting gangs and gang related crime. Through presentations, and breakout sessions, facilitators and attendees shared best practices of topics including case initiation, gang identification, corroboration of evidence, cultivation and management of witnesses and victims, and case take down and charging. 

 

The Symposium was facilitated by the Bureau Chief, Assistant District Attorney, and Investigative Warrant Coordinator from the Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, two detectives from the New York City Police Department, and NCSC gang investigation and prosecution experts.  JCF Detective Superintendent of Police and the JCF head of the National Strategic Anti-Gang Unit (NSAU) also assisted in facilitating breakout sessions and discussions.

 

The 53 Symposium attendees were intentionally divided into discussion tables to represent the various departments in attendance including prosecutors from the  ODPP and law enforcement professionals from the Major Organized Crime & Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), JCF Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC), JCF Proactive Investigations Unit (PIU), JCF Criminal Investigative Bureau (CIB), JCF National Police College of Jamaica (NPCJ), Department of Correctional Services (DCS), and Financial Investigations Division (FID). 

 

 3.3.          Part 2: Trial Preparation Seminar.   The Trial Preparation Seminar was led by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office and NCSC gang prosecution expert.  The Seminar provided practical trial preparation strategies, including managing complex, multi-defendant gang cases and preparing investigators for trial. 

 

The Seminar was attended by 24 senior and junior prosecutors from the ODPP, including the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions and Senior Deputy Prosecutors, as well as 15 investigators who actively work on gang cases.

 

 

See Index for Program Agendas and Facilitator Bios and Photos from the Event

 

4.     Outcomes

 

4.1.          Participants of both the Counter Gang Symposium and Trial Preparation Seminar completed surveys at the completion of the programs. 

 

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5.     Observations

 

5.1.          Throughout the course, training facilitators made the following observations:

 

·       Case Initiation

·       Gang Identification

·       etc

 

6.     Recommendations

 

6.1.          Recommendations by topic area:

o   Coordination

o   Quarterly multi-agency meetings led by the JCF on data collection and information sharing

 

6.2.          Legislation.  Gang prosecutions in Jamaica are significantly hampered by turncoat witnesses. Particularly in gang cases, witnesses are , threatened, or otherwise forced to testify in a manner inconsistent with statements previously given to investigators. Under the current law in Jamaica, previous statements of such witnesses are inadmissible as substantive evidence. The state of the law in Jamaica in this respect greatly hampers law enforcement in its ability to bring gang related cases to trial.

 

The US Federal Rules of Evidence, as well as rules in many states, allow the use of prior inconsistent statements of witnesses as substantive evidence under certain circumstances which generally revolve around the reliability of the previous statement. When witness trial testimony deviates from his or her previous statements, examples of statements deemed reliable for substantive admission are those which have been previously sworn to on penalty of perjury or which have been digitally recorded or which can be proved to have been in writing and signed by the witness. FRE 801(d)(1)(A) allows for the admission of previously sworn statements. In Illinois, this rule has been expanded to allow digitally recorded prior statements or written prior statement. 725 ILCS 5/115-10.1.

 

In the footnote is an example of the jury instruction in Illinois regarding the use of prior inconsistent statements of witnesses as substantive evidence.[1] It is respectfully recommended that Jamaica consider such legislation in its continuing efforts to thwart gang related offenses. Significant training in this area is available for both attorneys and the judiciary.

 

·       Develop legislation to allow for the use of statements obtained during the investigation from witnesses that are now unavailable as a result of actions of the accused (Forfeiture by Wrongdoing)

 

7.     Conclusion

 

7.1.          This industrious project was developed to help strengthen Jamaica’s capacity for a multi-agency approach to counter transnational organized crime. The key aims were to build agency coordination, build knowledge of Jamaica’s anti-gang legislation, build confidence among stakeholders to identify, investigate and support the prosecution of gangs and gang crime, and establish a sustainable, advanced training program and set of materials that can be used in the future.

 

7.2.          The teams conducted thorough investigations and went to great lengths to collaborate with their team members from other agencies, as well as other teams, to prepare and present well-developed case files. Teams benefited from discussions and ongoing expert feedback, along with live direction during the exercise.

 

[1] The believability of a witness may be challenged by evidence that on some former occasion he made a statement that was not consistent with his testimony in this case. Evidence of this kind ordinarily may be considered by you only for the limited purpose of deciding the weight to be given the testimony you heard from the witness in this courtroom.

However, you may consider a witness's earlier inconsistent statement as evidence without this limitation when:  1. The statement was made under oath at a trial, hearing, proceeding or 2. the statement narrates, describes, or explains an event or condition the witness had personal knowledge of; and a. the statement was written or signed by the witness. or b. the witness acknowledged under oath that he made the statement. or c. the statement was accurately recorded by a tape recorder, videotape recording, or a similar electronic means of sound recording.

 

It is for you to determine whether the witness made the earlier statement, and, if so what weight should be given to that statement. In determining the weight to be given to an earlier statement, you should consider all of the circumstances under which it was made.

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