In a dispute that spilled over into Facebook, Toronto lawyer Selwyn Pieters – who is representing the police and prison services at the Commission of Inquiry into the Disturbances and Subsequent Deaths at Camp Street Prison, – had strong exchanges with the chairman after the hearings resumed earlier this week.
Col. Justice (retired) James Patterson and Pieters argued about a videotape that was shown to the media and made public before it was submitted to the commission. This resulted in an argument during the resumption of the hearings, which have been extended by another two months.
Patterson raised some concerns about the manner in which video evidence was released to the public when that evidence was not available for the commission to view.
“You are missing the point, the point is that it was divulged without it being in the possession of the commission and it is wrong – you shouldn’t do it,” said Patterson when Pieters said he only released the tape to the meda.
In a video from Prime News posted on Pieters’ Facebook page, he told the commission “the case is not only in the courtroom but in the court of public opinion and I have to be able to properly represent my clients’ interest on both fronts.”
The chairman threatened to censure Pieters, who in turn threatened to resign even as he defended his actions.
Sixteen prisoners died on March 3 during a fiery riot at the prison which has been plagued with overcrowding.
Pieters also had difficulty at the inquiry with at least two prisoners being cross-examined by him.
Prisoner Carl Brown refused to answer questions, telling Pieters, “Stop with me, you mess with a lot of people, stop with me.”
Brown testified it is not a difficult for prisoners to acquire prohibited items such as cell phones and marijuana, since they are smuggled into the jail by officers of the Guyana Prison Service and then sold to inmates.
He claimed that during his 13 years of incarceration at the facility, he has owned at least seven cellular phones, which he purchased from the wardens.
“I pay $7,000 to bring in a phone, to get a proper phone. This is my seventh phone since in prison. As soon as a phone is taken away, you pay and get it back,” Brown stated.
Brown also admitted he was a regular user of the social website Facebook while in Camp Street.
Another prisoner, Kenneth Griffith, told Pieters “You are being paid to lie,” which was immediately objected to by Patterson.
Pieters had asked Griffith to describe the attire worn by Deputy Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels on March 3. The prisoner said Samuels wore a “task-force uniform”, green pants and a green jersey. He noted that Samuels was not masked.
The prisoner was then asked to describe the shoes Samuels wore. “I didn’t look to see what shoes he was wearing,” said Griffith, adding that Samuels’s shoes at the time were not important.
“I would suggest you did not see Samuels leading the task force,” Pieters told the prisoner, to which Griffith responded, “Your suggestion is wrong.”
Pieters maintained his argument which aggravated the prisoner, who yelled, “He was there! Samuels was there!”
The attorney then said, “I suggest that Samuels was not wearing green pants and a jersey.”
“Your suggestion is wrong,” said Griffith, who then called on Pieters to produce video evidence of his suggestions.
(With information from the Guyana Chronicle and Kaieteur News)