The preliminary inquiry involving a group of men charged with murdering former Independent Senator Dana Seetahal, SC, resumed yesterday after an almost two-month hiatus.
When the high-profile case came up for hearing before Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, a police officer took to the witness stand to testify on his involvement in the case. He was allowed to give evidence and was cross-examined by defence attorneys.
During the hearing, accused Ricardo Stewart complained of feeling unwell and Cedeno directed police to take Stewart to the hospital for an examination after the hearing. She then adjourned the case to this morning.
Evidential hearings of the inquiry had been put on hold since July as Cedeno was considering an application calling on her to recuse herself based on alleged improper communication with Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) George Busby.
In November last year, Busby reportedly informed Cedeno that a relative of a police officer, who is a witness in the inquiry and another case before her, had received an apparent death threat via text message. The message merely mentioned Seetahal’s assassination in May 2014 and alleged that a violent attack would be forthcoming later that month. It was not directed at Cedeno and the threat did not materialise.
While she claimed the communication was not inappropriate, Cedeno admitted she had cited the threat in a subsequent application for increased security. The DPP’s office agreed that Cedeno may appear to be biased in the case and admitted it was only aware of the communications after Cedeno made the disclosure.
Criminal defence attorney Criston J Williams, who raised the issue of Cedeno’s recusal, was forced to withdraw from the case earlier this month after his clients requested the application be withdrawn just as Cedeno was about to give her decision.
Despite the unusual move, Cedeno still considered the application and rejected it on Monday, allowing for yesterday’s resumption of the inquiry.
The preliminary inquiry has encountered several roadblocks since reputed gang leader Rajaee Ali and 13 alleged associates were charged with the crime a year after Seetahal was murdered on May 4, 2014.
Seetahal was shot dead behind the wheel of her SUV while driving along Hamilton Holder Street in Woodbrook.
Ali, his brothers Ishmael and Hamid Ali; Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Stephan Cummings, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales; Roget Boucher and Gareth Wiseman were charged with the crime.