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Legal arguments slow trial
Lengthy legal arguments over a series of controversial questions directed at the widower of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman have slowed the trial of a dozen men accused of murdering her. Rennie Coolman, a campus manager at the University of T&T (UTT), was due to return to the Port-of-Spain Third Criminal Court yesterday to continue his testimony after his cross-examination last Thursday was cut short by objections from prosecutors. However, when the case was called Justice Malcolm Holdip told the 12-member jury the attorneys had not completed their submissions on the issues raised during Coolman’s first appearance.
He estimated that the submissions would be completed within two days and told jurors to return to court on Thursday. The controversial line of questioning was raised by defence attorney Kwesi Bekoe, who had asked Coolman about an incident in which money was extorted from Coolman by someone purporting to be a state attorney so that Coolman would not be prosecuted in the case. Before being interrupted by the objection, Bekoe had asked Coolman about his involvement in his wife’s family business. Coolman said he was not involved and was not privy to the financial standing of the supermarket chain.
His testimony dealt mainly with what he saw when his wife was kidnapped on December 19, 2006, as well as his knowledge of several ransom calls made to his wife’s younger brother, Anand, in the weeks following her kidnapping. He is the sixth witness to be called by state prosecutors since the high-profile trial began late last month. His stepdaughter Risha Ali and the family’s live-in housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob, who were both home at the time and witnessed the kidnapping, also testified last week. Of the 65 police officers who are witnesses in the case, three already have given evidence.
The dozen men before the 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 but died in prison in 2011. 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, Alexia Romero, Stacy Benjamin-Roach and Lana Lackhan. The prosecution team is being led by three Senior Counsel — Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and Dana Seetahal — who are being instructed by state prosecutors Joy Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.