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Court questions why no lawyers yet for 12 ‘Vindra accused’
Legal Aid director Chateram Sinanan has been asked to appear before a High Court judge to explain why lawyers have not been fully appointed to represent 12 men accused of murdering businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. The accused returned before Justice Anthony Carmona Wednesday in the Port-of-Spain First Criminal Court where it was learnt that Legal Aid appointments were still to be confirmed. It was the same story for several previous adjournments. But sources yesterday confirmed “public defenders” registered with the Legal Aid Board were reluctant to accept the appointments until the retainer fees for the trial were substantially higher.
Currently, public defenders are paid $10,000 for a High Court trial which could last several months.
The trial into the murder of Naipaul-Coolman is expected to last some six months—a timeframe which many lawyers said yesterday was not economical for them. A source said attorney Ravi Rajcoomar was negotiating with Chateram for a higher retention fee for defence attorneys involved in the trial. In a telephone interview yesterday, Rajcoomar, instructed by John Heath for accused Ronald Armstrong, confirmed he was holding negotiations on behalf of the defence. He did not, however, disclose at what stage the talks had reached. Prosecutors Kathy Ann Waterman-Latchoo and Lee Merry represented the State at Wednesday’s hearing but Senior Counsel Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and Dana Seetahal have reportedly been retained to prosecute the trial.
Meantime, former prosecutor Wayne Rajbansie was appointed by the board to defend Shervon “Buffy” Peters. Wayne Sturge is representing Earl “Bobo” Trimmingham. Amerelle Francis and Selwyn Mohammed also have been appointed to defend two accused in the trial. Several others remain unrepresented. The matter was adjourned to next Thursday. Charged with the crimes of kidnapping and murder of the businesswoman are: Joel Fraser, also called “Ninja”, 25; Allan “Scanny” Martins, of Caroni; Shervon “Buffy” Peters, 22; his twin brother Devon Peters; Earl “Bobo” Trimmingham, 26; his younger brother Marlon “Madman” Trimmingham, 25; Ronald “Twenty-two” Armstrong, 29; Keida Garcia, 24; Antonio “Hedges” Charles, 30; Lyndon “Iron” James; Dwayne Gloster and Jameel “Wasa” Garcia, all of Upper La Puerta Avenue, Diego Martin. Naipaul-Coolman was snatched outside her home on Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas, on December 19, 2006, and has been missing since. She has been presumed dead by investigators.
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