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Jury told to ignore State’s statements
The 12-member jury in the murder trial of Central businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman was told yesterday to ignore several controversial statements made by state prosecutors last week in their opening address in the trial. Justice Malcolm Holdip gave the advice after ruling on legal objections to the prosecution’s opening address raised by the lawyers for the 12 accused men. The attorneys argued that Senior Counsel Israel Khan’s statements were prejudicial to their clients.
Holdip, presiding in the Port-of Spain High Court said: “Your job is to decide from the evidence that you see and hear in this court. The law does not allow you to get information from other sources. You must not consider the charge as evidence.” He also appealed to jurors to be objective, clinical and impartial in listening to the evidence. “Do not let external speculation seep into your ear... We try to preserve a trial’s integrity but we are all human beings prone to errors,” Holdip said.
Among the statements in Khan’s four-hour opening address which were highlighted by the defence attorneys was his claim that after being interviewed by police and released, the accused men exhumed the businesswoman’s body months later from a shallow grave near their homes and dumped the evidence at sea. Holdip said that allegation was not supported by evidence that the State would present in the trial.
“It was a slip from counsel which he has acknowledged. He made a slip. We are all human beings. It was a rather long opening and we are human beings,” Holdip said. He also described as “premature” Khan’s comment that the State’s main witness, Keon Gloster, had recanted his witness statement and told jurors to disregard it. “Trial has not started and there should be no speculation as to what he may or may not say,” Holdip said.
Holdip also took issue with Khan’s claims that all the accused men were present in the abandoned house at La Puerta Road, Diego Martin, where Naipaul-Coolman was kept hostage, at the time she was shot dead. He said that point should be ignored because it was based on speculation and not on evidence. He also asked jurors to disregard Khan’s repeated use of religious references in his opening address, saying: “Religious persuasion ought not to have a bearing or an overbearing in your deciding of this matter.”
Holdip also told them Khan’s repetition of key points of the State’s case in his opening was a legal tactic that they should not focus on. After giving the brief advice to jurors, Holdip repeated his warning to them about using the Internet and social networking sites to research and discuss the case. In his lengthy address last Monday, Khan detailed several aspects of the case and the evidence that would be presented against the accused men.
While Khan admitted that the State did not have evidence that they were involved in kidnapping Naipaul-Coolman on December 19, 2006, he claimed it would be proved that they were involved in her detention and eventual murder.
Daughter to testify today
The daughter of former Naipaul Xtra Foods chief executive Vindra Naipaul-Coolman will begin her testimony in her mother’s murder trial today. Risha Ali is expected to take the witness stand before Justice Malcolm Holdip at Port-of-Spain High Court to begin recounting the details of what she saw and heard on the night in 2006 when her mother was kidnapped while pulling into the driveway of their Chaguanas home.
After she testifies and is cross-examined by the defence attorneys for the dozen accused men, the State is then scheduled to call upon her stepfather Rennie Coolman and the family’s housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob, who were also at home when Naipaul-Coolman was kidnapped. During yesterday’s hearing, the 12 member jury with six alternates heard the evidence of three police officers who responded to the family’s home shortly after her kidnapping was reported to police.
Retired police photographer Brenton Mack was the first to testify and he explained that he was called to the scene to take photographs of evidence identified by crime scene investigators. After Mack gave his evidence and was excused by Holdip, special state prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, called two officers who were the first responders to the scene of the kidnapping.
PCs Simeon Guelmo and Dolan Olivier both testified that they were at the Chaguanas Police Station when they received the report of Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping on December 19, 2006. Both officers responded to the victim’s home where they spoke to Ali and Coolman.
Who’s in court
The dozen men before the jury and Justice Malcolm Holdip are: Allan "Scanny" Martin, twin brothers Shervon and Devon Peters, siblings Keida and Jamille Garcia and their older brother Anthony Dwayne Gloster, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser and Lyndon James.
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 Senior Counsel Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and Dana Seetahal, who are being assisted by senior state prosecutor Joy Balkaran.
Who’s in court
The dozen men before the jury and Justice Malcolm Holdip are: Allan "Scanny" Martin, twin brothers Shervon and Devon Peters, siblings Keida and Jamille Garcia and their older brother Anthony Dwayne Gloster, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser and Lyndon James. 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 Senior Counsel Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and Dana Seetahal, who are being assisted by senior state prosecutor Joy Balkaran.
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