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Magistrate recuses self from Seetahal trial

Published: 
Thursday, January 7, 2016

Accused gang leader Rajaee Ali and 11 members of his organisation accused of assassinating Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal have succeeded in their bid to have Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar recuse herself from their preliminary inquiry. 

Ayers-Caesar agreed to step down from the high profile case yesterday after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, did not oppose the application from the accused men, who claimed that she may appear to be biased in hearing their case. 

During the hearing in the Port-of-Spain Eight Magistrates’ Court yesterday morning, Gaspard said he was “mindful of the need to protect the integrity of the trial process.”

In their application, the accused questioned Ayers-Caesar’s impartiality as they claimed some of the officers of the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit (CGIU) who investigated Seetahal’s murder were briefly assigned to her security detail. 

Ayers-Caesar had previously agreed to recuse herself from Ali’s separate case for conspiring to murder radio announcer Kevaughn “Lurbz” Savory in late 2014 on the same ground. 

Security in and around the St Vincent Street courthouse was notably increased yesterday with police officers, wearing bullet proof vests and carrying assault rifles, at strategic locations and traffic being diverted from in front of the court, measures which have become the norm on each hearing of the case. 

Only one family member for each of the accused men was allowed in the courtroom for the hearing. 

Ali, his brothers, Ishmael and Hamid Ali; Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Stephan Cummings, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales; Roget Boucher and Gareth Wiseman are accused of murdering Seetahal on May 4, 2014. Seetahal was driving alone Hamilton Holder Street in Woodbrook when she was ambushed and shot dead in her SUV. 

Ali, Stacy Griffith, Deon Peters and David Ector are on charges under the Anti-Gang Act for assisting the group in the murder but are not charged with the capital offence. The accused men will reappear in court on January 28.