Justified: Privy Council overturns former cop’s conviction | Main stories
Lawyers for ex-Constable Lescene Edwards, whose murder conviction was overturned by the Privy Council on Monday, say they are happy their client has been found guilty of the death of the mother of his children and will seek compensation immediately for the constitutional violations.
The former police officer was convicted of the 2003 murder of his girlfriend, Aldonna Harris-Vasquez, who married a stranger a month before she was killed with a single bullet to the head in the bathroom of her home of St. Andrew.
The prosecution had alleged that Edwards killed the university student and then staged the scene to make it look like she had taken her own life.
However, Edwards, who had argued that Harris-Vasquez committed suicide, was tried 10 years after the incident and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 35 years. ,
But the Privy Council, in its ruling on Monday, not only found that a “substantial miscarriage of justice had occurred”, but that the decade-long delay had breached Edwards’ constitutional right to a fair trial in a reasonable delay.
Attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson, one of the lawyers representing Edwards who had argued he should never have been convicted, said the Privy Council decision validated defense arguments that their client was innocent .
“I said the case should not have gone to trial as the Crown had no case, but it is interesting that the court found the prosecution theory to be a near impossibility,” she said.
Neita-Robertson said Edwards’ legal team would pursue redress for constitutional violations “with the same energy we are using in this case and have already begun paperwork for damages.”
“We know he was without pay all this time, the pain and suffering he went through, the damage to his reputation, and we know his two children had to grow up without him, and we’re going to consider all of that, ” she says.
Neita-Robertson also indicated that Edwards would also seek compensation for the miscarriage of justice in light of the Privy Council’s recommendation for it to be reviewed by Jamaican authorities. However, she indicated that preliminary discussions will take place with the authorities.
In the meantime, the lawyer said Edwards’ family are happy and relieved, especially his children and brother who supported him throughout the trial and believed in his innocence and are just waiting for his release. , and she will follow up on her release to ensure there is no undue delay.
The Privy Council also concluded that Edwards’ conviction was not safe after admitting new evidence from three experts who together found that the evidence pointed more to suicide than murder.
During the trial, the local expert had testified that Edwards had written a suicide note which was allegedly found at the scene.
A foreign expert for the defense had found that his analysis could neither identify nor eliminate Edwards as the author of the note. A similar conclusion was made about the likelihood of Harris-Vasquez paternity.
Ballistics experts also said no gunshot residue was found on either the deceased’s or Edwards’ hand. Nor was there any on the deceased’s nightgown, which was tested weeks later.
However, regarding the new evidence provided, Mark Mastaglio, a ballistics expert; Angela Shaw, a bullet residue expert; and Gillian Leak, forensic consultant on the bloodstain evidence, all found that the position of the deceased woman’s body and the height of the bullet hole in the bathroom door all supported the suicide theory.
Shaw also concluded that the absence of bullet residue on the deceased’s hands did not support the view that Edwards was guilty. She further noted that if Edwards had shot Harris-Vasquez, there would have been blood splatter on his person or his clothes.
“There is simply no satisfactory explanation of how the defendant could have murdered the deceased in the very confined space of the bathroom, then moved the body, opened the door and appeared very soon after. in the living room with no blood seen on him or his clothes, and no bloodstains or bloody footprints found anywhere outside the bathroom,” said the Privy Council about the new forensic evidence.
Attorneys Deborah Martin and Patrick Atkinson, QC, also represented Edwards.