Ricketts confession ruled in

| 09/02/2010

(CNS): After almost three days of closed door arguments, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled that Larry Prinston Ricketts’ confession, which was given to the police on 28 October, was done so fairly and voluntarily and admitted the evidence. Ricketts’ defence attorney had argued that the statement was not only unfair because of the circumstances in which it was taken but was not offered voluntarily either because the statement was concocted by the officers investigating the case. He suggested that the officers interviewing Ricketts had fabricated the statement based on their knowledge of the case from other sources.

Through the course of the voir dire it was revealed that, following Ricketts’ co-defendant’s own confession and accusation that Ricketts was with him on the night that Estella Scott-Roberts wasmurdered, Ricketts was arrested. Kirkland Henry made his first admission about the crime to Marlon Bodden and Joseph Wright in the back of a police car, where he accused Ricketts of killing the deceased. Police then went in search of Ricketts, who was arrested for murder close to George Town police station on Monday 27 October.

The following day Detective Livingstone Bailey of the RCIPS interviewed Ricketts and the statement was witnessed by Detective Joseph Wright. During the long interview Ricketts confessed that he was with Henry and admitted they had killed the deceased by placing a bag over her head and setting fire to the car. Although Ricketts signed the confession in several places and initialled the more than 50 answers throughout the statement at the time of the interview, in court he denied the content.

During cross examination of Bailey, Robert Fortune QC suggested that he had made up the confession statement by Ricketts as a result of other information coming from Henry and tricked and coerced his client into signing — an accusation that Bailey flatly denied many times.

Fortune, however, pressed the idea that all through the interview the police had asked entirely different questions to those which appeared on the statement and that Ricketts had given different answers, denying he was even with Kirkland Henry on the night of the murder.  The defence attorney observed that there were long time lapses in the interview where nothing seemed to happen and that would give the officers the time they needed to contrive the questions and fabricate answers.

However, Bailey said that Ricketts spent long periods of silence during the interview studying the officers before he would answer the questions put to him. The police officer said when the defendant was given his statement to read after the interview was over he took over an hour to read the document and noted some minor changes he wished to make.

The defence attorney also suggested that the language in the statement was not the sort of language his client would use and that the rounded confession at the end was almost certainly contrived. However, Bailey insisted that Ricketts had said the words in the statement and he had told the police he regretted what had happened to the lady and was truly sorry for the pain he had caused.

Placing Ricketts on the stand, Fortune questioned his client about the interview with the two officers, which Ricketts insisted was made up and full of things had never said as he was not with Henry on 10 October. He said he was afraid and he had not been offered a lawyer or cautioned and that the police had told him if he helped them they would let him go.

He said they had told him they just wanted to ask him about his whereabouts on 10 October, despite acknowledging that he was aware they had arrested him for murder.

Ricketts alleged that the police officers threatened that he would be in prison for the rest of his life and that another man would bring up his child unless he signed the confession. On the other hand, if he did it would show he was co-operating and they would realise him, despite the fact he was signing a confession to murder — something he said the officers had described as “irrelevant”.

Aside from the coercion, Ricketts also claimed that he was afraid the police would beat him up as they do in Jamaica if he did not sign and that, as he had never been arrested before, he did not understand what was going on or what was happening to him.

He denied being with Kirkland Henry and going to Deckers or abducting Scott-Roberts in the manner suggested in his statement or driving to Pappagallos and killing her.

In his statement, Ricketts had said they placed a bag over the lady’s head, but on the stand he said Officer Bailey had suggested he did it but Ricketts said he told Bailey that he “never did anything like that” and had denied murdering her. The defendant accused Bailey of making the questions and answers up as he constantly denied the accusations made by the two officers, who he said were laughing at him. He also denied that he had ever said they “killed the lady” but they had made him sign all the answers.

He admitted that he had tried to use the card, which was stolen from Scott-Roberts, in the bank ATM, but that was because he had seen Henry on the street the next morning and he had told him he had found the credit card. Giving him a number on a piece of paper, Ricketts claimed that Henry had asked him to try it to see if he could get money from the machine. In his statement, however, Ricketts had said that he had found the card in the car and asked Scott-Roberts for the pin number.

When cross examined by Solicitor General Cheryll Richards QC, Ricketts admitted on the stand that the police had not hit him or threatened him with violence at any time, despite his claim to be afraid. He also said that they had not even really shouted at him, although they had raised their voices sometimes.

Richards asked how he could believe the police would let him go having just signed a confession to murder, and Ricketts told the court he was confused and the police were threatening and tricking him. “In Jamaica the police beat you up and probably shoot you,” he said, continuing to deny the content of his confession statement.

It was also revealed to the court that, as Henry and Ricketts were being interviewed simultaneously, it would be difficult for both Bailey and Wright to have known all of the details of Henry’s confession to fabricate a confession from Ricketts that dovetailed with it.

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