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Vindra murder trial begins today
After eight years of repeated delays and unexpected hindrances, a dozen men will today go on trial for the kidnapping and murder of central businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. A 12-member jury consisted of eight men and four women supported by six alternates are expected to gather at the Hall of Justice around 9 am, when the State will open the prosecution's case. A total of 74 witnesses are scheduled to testify against the accused and the trial is expected to last as long as a year to complete.
Security measures at the court is expected to be significantly increased for the high profile trial. Besides normal security scans at the entrance to the court, members of the public will also have to clear a secondary security check point erected outside the entrance to the Second and Third Assizes. Visitors will have to lodge their cellphones with security personnel, before passing through a metal detector at the entrance to the adjoining courtrooms.
The two rooms, outfitted with video conferencing equipment, are being used for the trial to accommodate the large number of attorneys who are defending the 12 murder accused. The trial had been blighted with delays in the past as many of the accused men had difficulties in securing legal representation, before the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority intervened in 2012 to implement a special Cabinet-approved payment plan to lure defence attorneys into the trial.
Jury selection began in May, last year, with more than 400 people being summoned as potential jurors. The trial could not commence after the month-long jury selection process as defence attorneys were engaged in pre-trial legal arguments.
About the case
Naipaul-Coolman, 52, the former chief executive of supermarket chain Naipaul's Xtra Foods was kidnapped from her home at Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas on December 19, 2006. Her kidnappers demanded a $3 million ransom was demanded for her release. Her family paid a portion, however, she was not released and her body was never found.
The dozen men before jury and Justice Malcolm Holdip are: Allan "Scanny" Martin, Shervon "Buffy" Peters, Keida Garcia, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser, Lyndon James, Devon Peters, Anthony Dwayne Gloster and Jamille Garcia. A 13th man, Raphael Williams was charged with the crime but died in prison in 2011 of complications from sickle-cell anaemia.
Their legal team includes Ulric Skerritt, Joseph Pantor, Selwyn Mohammed, Lennox Sankersingh, Ian Brooks, Wayne Sturge, Mario Merritt, Richard Valere, Kwesi Bekoe, Colin Selvon, Vince Charles, Christian Chandler, Delicia Helwig and Alexia Romero.
The prosecution team includes, Gilbert Peterson, Dana Seetahal and Israel Khan.