The Tragic Case of Carlton Barrett

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Story by Sybil E Hibbert

Sybil E Hibbert is a veteran journalist and retired court reporting specialist. She is also the wife of Retired ACP Isadore ‘Dick’ Hibbert, rated among the top Jamaican detectives of his time.

ALBERTINE Barrett, widow of Carlton Barrett, a former drummer in Bob Marley’s Wailers Band, was on October 18, 1991, jailed for seven years along with the two men charged with her for conspiracy to murder her husband.

Carlton Barrett was a well-known musician on the dancehall circuit at the time of his death. He was gunned down at his gate at 12 Bridgemount Park Avenue, Kingston 8 about 9:30 pm on April 17, 1987.

The late Justice Ellis (retired senior puisne judge) in passing the seven-year prison term on Barrett and the other two accused, remarked at the time that the case raised the frightening spectre of contract murder.

He said that a contract murder was very difficult to solve because the contractor was a stranger to the victim and police investigators therefore had little to go on to find the killer.

“You were the author of the plot,” the judge told Barrett as she stood in the prisoner’s dock awaiting her fate. She had been recently married, the court was told, and was seven months pregnant.

His Lordship added before imposing the sentence on her: “Your attorney, Tavares-Finson, in eloquence and sincerity, mentioned that you had lived a life of living hell with your husband, but it is my view that you could have (with)drawn from that without resorting to what you did.”

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56 Hope Road (Photo by Lindsay Donald)

Sentenced with her were Glenroy Carter, 39, her reputed lover and taxi operator of 15 Grayden Avenue, Kingston 10, and Junior Neil, 39, also called “Bang”, a mason, of 19 Seaward Drive, Kingston 11, whom the prosecution alleged was responsible for snuffing out the life of the deceased.

But by 1994, after hearing evidence and legal submissions for 12 days — following two previous trials and a successful appeal to the Jamaican Court of Appeal — a jury retired for 25 minutes and returned a not-guilty verdict in favour of all three accused. They were then acquitted.

Justice Bingham (later judge of appeal now retired) presided at this trial in the Home Circuit Court.

The Crown had alleged that the three accused conspired in 1987 to kill Carlton Barrett. Cautioned statements were allegedly given by the three accused to the police in which they were alleged to have said that there was an agreement to kill him for a payment of $20,000. These statements were tendered in evidence.

It was also part of the Crown’s case that prior to the murder, Carter, a Jamaican who resided in the USA, was on vacation here when he met the accused Albertine Barrett and they became lovers. It was further alleged that the accused, Junior Neil, was contracted to carry out the killing.

In their defence, the three accused denied giving the statements voluntarily to the police. They claimed they were beaten and forced to do so.

Barrett and Carter were tried twice for the murder.

In the first trial, the jury failed to arrive at a verdict. In the second, Justice Panton (later president of the Court of Appeal) ruled that Barrett’s cautioned statement was inadmissible, as the prosecution had not proven that coersion played no part in the taking of her statement.

The judge said then that he laid no blame on Detective Superindent Donald Brown (later ACP retired), who had testified. Carter’s statement was admitted into evidence and he was freed by the jury.

Barrett was defended by attorneys Tom Tavares-Finson and Dr Paul Ashley; and variously by attorneys K D Knight, QC (later government minister), Bert Samuels and Norman Harrison. Neil was represented by attorneys C J Mitchell and Gayle Nelson.

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Paris 1977

The Crown’s case was presented at various times by Lloyd Hibbert, deputy director of public prosecutions (now judge of the Supreme Court); Yvette Sibble, assistant director of public prosecutions; Lancelot Clarke, assistant director of public prosecutions; and Crown Counsel Cheryl Richards.

A Home Circuit Court judge and jury later heard from Detective Superintendent Brown that a team of detectives headed by him began carrying out intensive investigations immediately after the murder.

Brown had given evidence later, at an ‘in camera’ trial, that the investigations led to the arrest of the three accused and they each gave cautioned statements admitting that they were involved in a plot to kill Barrett.

Giving evidence in the hearings was Oswald Brown, a justice of the peace (JP), who testified for the Crown. He said he was present when Barrett and Carter gave cautioned statements to the police.

Harold Nembhard, also a JP, said he witnessed a cautioned statement given by Neil.

In these statements, which were tendered in evidence and read to the jury, the three accused allegedly admitted conspiring to murder Barrett.

Carter and Albertine Barrett were alleged to have said in their statements that they went to the corner of Seaward Drive and Molynes Road where they saw Neil, o/c “Bang”, and asked him if he knew of anyone who could ‘bump off’ a man.

Albertine Barrett is alleged in the statement to have given “Bang” a photograph of her husband, as well as the licence number and make of the car he drove.

Carlton Barret at Hope Road

56 Hope Road

All this evidence was revealed at a subsequent trial, the result of Justice Patterson ordering a retrial.

All three accused were this time convicted for conspiracy to murder Barrett, a jury having failed to arrive at a unanimous verdict in respect of murder against Barrett and Carter.

At that first trial in 1988, when the case was called, Deputy DPP Hibbert had informed the court that there was a new indictment — conspiracy to murder Carlton Barrett — in respect of Neil, who would be tried at a later date.

Neil was remanded in custody pending the outcome of the murder charge filed against the other two accused.

The retrial took place in 1990 when Carter and Barrett were freed by a jury of the murder charge.

But by 1991, after the conviction of all three for conspiracy to murder resulted, an appeal to the Court of Appeal succeeded. Again, a new trial was ordered.

Finally, in November 1994, a Home Circuit Court jury, after hours of deliberation, returned not-guilty verdicts in favour of all three accused persons and they walked free.

Testifying in his defence, during the period, Neil told the judge and jury that he was beaten by the police and then given a statement to sign. He said that a piece of concrete with wires was tied to his testicles and he was told to walk.

“It feel like it was drawing down my belly, drawing down inside of me. I could not take it anymore and so I signed,” Neil told the court.

He added that Superintendent Brown showed him where to sign.

Barrett wept as she told the court, in sworn testimony, that her husband, who had been a drug addict, used to beat her.

She related several acts of cruelty done to her by him over an extended period, but she denied plotting with anyone to kill him. She admitted that she had been engaged in an affair with Carter while living with her husband but claimed she knew nothing at all about how he met his death.

Carter, who also gave sworn testimony in his defence said that he had heard that the police were looking for him, and on April 22, 1987, he went to the Constant Spring Police Station. There, he gave a statement to the police, denying that he knew anything about the murder of Carlton Barrett. He was also questioned about his family, he stated.

He said that after he was questioned, he was taken to Red Hills police station and on April 24, he was given a statement to sign. He said he signed it because he thought it was the statement which he had given to the police on April 22.

Sweden 1977 (www.bob-marley.es

Sweden 1977 (www.bob-marley.es)

Carter further told the court that he could not read and denied that he had given any cautioned statement to the police.

He said he met Albertine Barrett in January 1987 and they had a relationship. But he insisted that he did not know anything about the murder of her husband.

The two accused said the police forced them to sign the cautioned statements and both said they were beaten by the police.

They were cross-examined by Deputy DPP Hibbert, and Assistant DPP Sibble.

Carter also called a witness to support his claim that he was at home at the time when Carlton Barrett was killed.

However, there was an interesting turn of events in this torturous trial when, in June 1990, Bert Samuels, appearing for Carter, sought and was granted permission to withdraw from the case on the grounds that he was not properly instructed by his client and so could no longer appear for him.

Samuels also pointed out at the time to Senior Puisne Judge Chester Orr (now retired) that Carter was languishing in custody because he could not take up his $100,000 bail and that, too, affected the possibility of counsel getting proper instructions.

Tavares-Finson, counsel for Albertine Barrett, told the court then that he was ready to proceed with the retrial, whereupon the case was set for mention in the Home Circuit Court on June 25, 1990 so that a lawyer could be assigned to represent Carter.

But by December 1990, when the matter next came before the court for trial, Samuels was vigorously making a no-case submission on behalf of Carter, after such a submission by Tavares-Finson and Dr Ashley had been earlier upheld by the trial judge on Albertine Barrett’s behalf.

Justice Panton had earlier ruled that there was a case for Carter to answer. But after giving evidence on his own behalf, supported by a witness, Carter as found not guilty of Carlton Barrett’s death.

Four years later, all three accused successfully appealed their conspiracy to murder charge, and were finally set free.

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