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(JAMAICA GLEANER) — It was a tearful Mark Richards who exited the prisoner’s dock in the St Catherine Circuit Court on Monday after being told by Justice Lorna Shelly Williams that he was freed of murder more than 15 years after the charge was first laid.
When Richards appeared, the judge told the court that witnesses had been absent, two had migrated, and another could not be accounted for.
The accused, who was represented by attorney-at-law Valerie Neita-Robertson, Queen’s Counsel, wept bitterly as he was overwhelmed by his new-found freedom.
“I cannot believe that the matter dragged on so long before the court,” Richards said. “I am now in a position to get on with my life. I am shocked to realise that all my children have grown up, but nonetheless, justice prevails,” he added.
Meanwhile, his attorney said that the judicial system had caused his client severe grief and distress – emotionally, financially and spiritually – and it was manifestly clear that he should have been vindicated years ago.
“Clearly, I am relieved, and my client is also glad to have his freedom once more,” said Neita-Robertson. “He was unduly punished by the system that he serves.”
Allegations are that on October 26, 2003, Richards, a police corporal, was on duty in Spanish Town, St Catherine, when he signalled a car with Andrew Wilson, a 24-year-old labour of Spanish Town, on board to stop. The vehicle sped away and was chased on to Fairfield Road. The court was told that a shoot-out ensued between the cop and persons inside the car.
When the shooting subsided, Wilson was found with gunshot wounds, before succumbing to his injuries later.
An investigation was conducted and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that Richards be charged with murder.
He has made more than 50 court appearances and has maintained his innocence throughout the case.