In early 2020 Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Karim Nelson was issued with one Glock firearm and 24 rounds after having received threats to his life.
Commissioner of Police(COP) Colin John said this when he took the stand last Tuesday, November 16, in the trial looking into the charges laid against Nelson and Unity Labour Party(ULP) Senator and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Ashelle Morgan, connected to the shooting of Diamond businessman Cornelius John on his property on April 13.
Nelson was charged with wounding and unlawful discharge of a firearm while Morgan was charged for criminal assault.
The COP was called as a prosecution witness in the proceedings.
He said that in January 2020, Nelson, who was either Senior Crown Counsel or Assistant DPP at the time, reported to him several threats on his life, and “intel from the police force also substantiated” this.
John said that investigations were carried out and “as a result of the investigation Mr Nelson was provided personal security and he was issued with a firearm.”
The Commissioner gave the serial number of the firearm, and was able to identify the weapon that was in an envelope in court. When asked he said it was a 9mm Glock pistol.
Counsel for Senator Morgan, Duane Daniel, had questions to ask the COP in cross examination, as his client was accused of pointing a firearm at Cornelius John and saying if he called her ‘effing’ name she would shoot him in the mouth. John had testified that this was a different firearm to the one the man who shot him had in his possession. Therefore it was accepted that as per Cornelius John’s version there were two firearms on the scene that night.
Daniel asked the Commissioner if he sits on a board that approves firearm licenses and he said that he did, that this is called the Firearm Licensing Board.
“You remember there was a shooting of a lawyer in Hinds building, a lawyer by the name of Bertram Stapleton?” Daniel questioned, and the COP said yes.
“…you are aware that the then Commissioner of Police invited lawyers to make applications for gun licenses?” he also asked, and the response was yes.
“…and that the implication is that a policy decision would be taken that they would be favourably considered?” Daniel asked, to which the COP said yes.
He was questioned about public figures such as Senators being favourably considered, and the COP replied that once the necessary checks are made they are favourably considered. The checks would include criminal records.
In his no case submission made a day later the lawyer would submit that there was absolutely no reason that his client would need to have an unlicensed firearm as she would be favourably considered for a license.
Marks, who represented Nelson, did not ask any questions of the commissioner in cross examination.
The prosecution, St Lucia’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Brette asked in re-examination whether Nelson was issued with a firearm license or a service pistol.
Later, during submissions he would reveal that this was important to ask “because when you are service issued you get your rounds issued to you by the authority and you are to account for it.”
However, no sooner had the question left his lips than defence counsel rose with an objection.
Daniel argued that the prosecution’s question did not arise from cross examination. When the prosecution asks questions following cross examination it is a re-examination and linked to what was asked by the defence counsel.
Brette posited that, “the witness said that he’s sitting on a Board that approves application for firearm licenses. He said that the name of the Board is the Firearm Licensing Board. So he’s aware and he knows, that came out of cross examination, licenses and Licensing Board, and he also says that he’s aware that the then Commissioner advised lawyers to make application for gun licenses and that the policy is that they would be favourably considered. This question arises from cross examination.”
Marks said that as it concerns him, “Not one question was asked” with regards to Nelson, and it is therefore outside of the realm of the re-examination.
“There is no such limit,” the prosecution returned, and submitted that the defence have, since the week before, been “making assertions”, and principles of law without applying the authority.
Marks responded that he didn’t think that he had to come to court and teach the prosecution “the simple tenets of law”. He said re-examination is not “another bite of the cherry.”
“…And nowhere in cross examination did the name Karim Nelson come up so how that reach in?” he asked.
The prosecution reiterated that it referred to licences for lawyers.
“It does not refer to Karim Nelson,” Marks said.
“It doesn’t have to your honour,” Brett said.
“It has to!” Marks stated in a loud voice.
Ultimately the magistrate did not allow the question.
Later the Investigating officer, Corporal 858, Hoyte took the stand In his evidence the Corporal revealed that he had called Nelson on June 21, 2021. Nelson then came to the Calliaqua police station where he handed over a Glock pistol with the serial number that the Commissioner spoke about, and two magazines.
He said this was taken to the ballistics expert and a function test was carried out. The ammunition amounted to 23 rounds.
However, as per the register when his firearm was issued on January 23, 2020, he was issued with 24 rounds.
After the prosecution’s case was completed Nelson and Morgan’s lawyers made submissions to the court saying that no case was made out for their clients to respond to, and this was upheld by the court. Therefore the two public officials on Thursday November 18 were acquitted of all charges.