Ian K Ramdhanie, MSc,
For the second time this week, the trial of 12 men accused of murdering central businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman was delayed because of lengthy legal arguments. Her widower, Rennie Coolman, was present at the Port-of-Spain High Court for yesterday’s hearing though he spent most of the morning sitting outside the courtroom as he waited for defence attorneys to continue cross-examining him. However, by midday Coolman and the 12-member jury and six alternates hearing the trial, were informed they had to return to court this morning as lawyers had just completed their legal submissions over a series of controversial questions which they were seeking to ask Coolman.
Before adjourning the case, High Court judge Malcolm Holdip informed Coolman and the jurors he would give his ruling on the issue during the next hearing, after which the defence attorneys would be allowed to resume questioning Coolman. He began his testimony in the high profile trial last week but it was cut short after prosecutors objected when defence lawyer Kwesi Bekoe began asking him about an incident in which he was extorted by a woman, pretending to be a State attorney, who requested money for him to avoid being prosecuted in relation to his wife’s kidnapping and murder. Prosecutors and defence attorneys immediately began legal submission on the objection during that hearing and were scheduled to finish on Monday. However, on the date of the deadline, the matter had to be adjourned as they had not yet been completed.
Coolman is the sixth witness to be called by prosecutors since the trial began in late March. His stepdaughter, Risha Ali, and former live-in housekeeper Rasheedan Yacoob, who were also at the family’s Lange Park, home on December 19, 2006 when Naipaul-Coolman was kidnapped also have given evidence. The other witnesses are police photographer PC Brenton Mack who took pictures of the crime scene and two police officers assigned to the Chaguanas Police Station, who responded to the report of the businesswoman’s kidnapping.
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 prosecutors Joy Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.