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Convicted killer pelts magistrate with ganja packet
A man who is serving at least 40 years for the brutal killings of three people shocked court officials yesterday when he threw a packet of marijuana at a presiding magistrate.
Convicted killer Lester Pitman was subdued by police after the incident, around 10.10 am, in the Port-of-Spain Fifth Court.
Escorted to court yesterday by a prison officer, Pitman reappeared on a robbery charge dating back to August 1999. He complained about his attorney's failure to visit him at the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca, claiming he was denied an opportunity to proper representation.
Pitman complained that Legal Aid-appointed attorney Darryl Worrell failed to visit him in prison to take instructions on the case, hence his frustration.
As the case was called, Pitman pre-empted Magistrate Aden Stroude, saying that he would represent himself. He was cautioned about his demeanour and decorum after he interrupted Stroude several times.
After hearing from Pitman he had not spoken to Worrell, Stroude advised Pitman to take some time and talk to his lawyer, following which the matter would be recalled.
Responding to that suggestion, Pitman replied: “I doh business.”
Stroude warned him that his disrespect would not be tolerated but Pitman continued to speak over him, demanding that another attorney should be appointed for him.
As Stroude ordered Pitman taken downstairs to cool off and return when he was ready to talk and listen, Pitman raised his voice and again said: “I doh business ‘bout dat, boy.”
As he spoke, Pitman reached into his right front pocket and pulled out a clear packet with marijuana and threw it in Stroude's direction, saying: “That's yours, you could smoke that.”
The packet landed at the feet of another attorney seated at the bench.
Police, led by Sgt Henderson Andrews, retrieved the packet and led Pitman out of the court. No other items were found on him when he was searched after the incident.
When the matter was recalled shortly before noon, Worrell admitted he had been unable to meet with Pitman because of other cases.
Pitman was charged with armed robbery after an incident on August 3, 1999, at Bushe Street, San Juan, during which he allegedly robbed a couple of $125 as they were selling ice-cream.
Stroude later adjourned that matter to July 3.
After yesterday's incident, Pitman was charged by PC Bheepath of the Court and Process Branch with possession of four grammes of marijuana and wilfully interrupting the proceedings of the Fifth Court.
Appearing unrepresented before Magistrate Cheron Raphael in the 11th Court, Pitman pleaded not guilty.
On the issue of bail, Pitman said: “It won't make sense. I am waiting on this matter as I appeal it in England.” Pitman has appealed the 40-year sentence imposed by the Appeal Court and is awaiting the outcome of that case.
He will also reappear before the 10th Court on July 3 in relation to the latest charges.
Are prisoners searched?
Police yesterday expressed shock over the incident as they tried to find out from where Pitman got the drugs.
They were unable to provide any explanation, except to say that prisoners brought to court by prisons officers were not searched by court and process police as they were under the care and control of prison officers who were responsible for searching them before bringing them to the court.
A senior officer said yesterday’s incident would result in new procedures having to be implemented to ensure the safety of court officials, staff, police and prison officers and the civilian public.
The Cropper murders
Pitman was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to hang in 2005 for the murders on December 11, 2001 in Cascade of Maggie Lee, Lynette Pearson and John Cropper.
After an appeal, heard by Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justices of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes and Alice Yorke Soo Hon, Pitman's sentence was commuted to life in December 2013, with Archie ordering that Pitman serve a minimum of 40 years in prison.
As he had spent more than five years in custody after his conviction, Archie's decision followed the guideline from the case of Pratt and Morgan, which prohibits the State from executing a prisoner who has been on death row for five years or more after being convicted.