San Fernando Jama Masjid worshippers hid in their mosque on Wednesday night when a man walked onto the masjid’s compound and killed the son of a popular People’s National Movement (PNM) activist.
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State attorneys need protection
Former judge Larry Lalla says the time has come for prosecutors in high-profile cases to be provided with special protection. His statement comes in wake of the killing of Dana Seetahal, SC. Lalla said Seetahal was one of his lecturers in law school and since then the two had remained close friends. Her murder, he said, spoke volumes, including making clear the need for examining the criminal justice system and its efficiency.
“A lot more has to be done to ensure the criminal justice system gets where it should be to deal with circumstances facing the citizens at this time. “The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions needs to be properly staffed to ensure we have a greater number of successful verdicts before the courts. You have a number of good prosecutors, but once the good ones get enough experience, they leave, because the terms and conditions are not sufficient to keep them,” Lalla said.
Proper security for prosecutors, he added, was also lacking and this issue needed urgent attention. “The entire criminal justice system needs to be properly resourced to deal with the circumstances that our country is presently in,” Lalla added. He said when he joined the legal fraternity in 1995, he remembered all the prosecutors were provided with security for the Dole Chadee matter.
“I don’t understand what happened between then and now. All prosecutors in high-profile matters had personal security. I would have thought that as a matter of course that would have been provided to all attorneys prosecuting high-profile matters before the court,” he said. “I don’t think it is something that is rocket science. It is something that we should look at putting in place and should have been provided as a matter of course.”
Lalla said given the circumstances of Seetahal’s killing, a “reasonable mind” would conclude it was an assassination.
Elder: I screamed for her and our country
Head of the Criminal Bar Association Pamela Elder, SC, who also knew Seetahal for many years, said, “I still could not come to terms with her killing. “When I heard the news all I could have done was put my pillow over my head and scream. Scream out not only for the loss of Dana but scream for our country,” Elder said. She said the country had lost a formidable advocate and a person who worked tirelessly for the criminal justice system.
“Dana and I worked together, we worked on opposite sides, and there was never any bitterness between us, no matter how hard we fought against each other, because what we had in common was our love and concern for the criminal justice system,” Elder said. At the criminal bar, Elder said, there were just three female Senior Counsel, Sophia Chote, Seetahal and herself. “So you could imagine the void. I felt so proud sitting at the front desk with Dana and Sophia next to me. “Now there are just two of us. And why is that?”