Six police officers accused of murdering three friends in Moruga in 2011, will have to remain on remand as their trial begins today.
Delivering a judgment yesterday, the Court of Appeal dismissed a consolidated appeal brought by the six officers and another man, Keros Martin, who is accused of an unrelated murder.
It was a split decision with Appellate Judges Nolan Bereaux and Maria Wilson agreeing that the Court of Appeal did not have the jurisdiction to hear appeals over judges’ decisions not to grant murder accused bail. Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh provided a dissenting judgment in which he expressed the view that he and his Court of Appeal colleagues had the jurisdiction to entertain such appeals.
Justice Boodoosingh also ruled that the judge, who denied the officers bail, exercised his discretion wrongly based on their analysis of the legal issues and facts in the case.
He ruled that he would have granted each of the officers $700,000 bail and would have remitted Martin’s case for further consideration.
Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo and PCs Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman, and Antonio Ramadin are accused of murdering Alana Duncan, Kerron Eccles, and Abigail Johnson on July 22, 2011.
Duncan, 27, of Duncan Village, San Fernando, Eccles, 29, and 20-year-old Johnson, both of St Mary’s Village, Moruga, were in Duncan’s vehicle when it was stopped by the officers at the corner of Rochard Douglas Road and Gunness Trace in Barrackpore.
Initial reports claimed that the friends shot at the officers, who returned fire.
A female colleague was initially charged alongside her former colleagues from the San Fernando Robbery Squad but the charge was dropped and replaced with a lesser charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after she agreed to testify against them.
In July 2013, the officers were committed to stand trial at the end of their preliminary inquiry.
Relatives of the three friends brought a lawsuit against the State over their wrongful deaths and are each seeking over $2 million in compensation.
The case went to trial in 2018 but had to be reassigned to another judge after Justice Kevin Ramcharan recused himself from the case based on the fact that the families’ lawyer Keith Scotland represented him in an unrelated matter.
The case was reassigned to another High Court Judge but was not determined as he was subsequently elevated to the Court of Appeal. That case is still pending.
The police officers’ case is listed for trial before High Court Judge Carla Brown-Antoine today.
On Tuesday, Senior Counsel Israel Khan, who is leading the officers’ legal team, took issue with the O’Meara Judicial Centre being utilised for the trial.
While Khan admitted that a notice in the Gazette was issued on Monday designating the centre as a location for Supreme Court matters, he noted that the Criminal Procedure Act only allowed trials in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando.
“Even the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) cannot transfer this matter to Arima or Siparia. There is a lacuna in the law and the Judiciary cannot fix it by proclaiming a Gazette,” Khan said.
He also challenged Justice Brown-Antoine to hold him in contempt of court for his threat to withhold participation.
In a press release issued on Monday, the Judiciary noted that the trial was set after consultations with prosecutors and the officers’ defence team since the case was assigned to Justice Brown-Antoine in January 2019.
“Since that time, the matter has been the subject of case management by the judge and master with the participation of both the prosecution and defence,” the release said.
“In this case, the trial date was fixed at a hearing on Monday, February 27, 2023, with the agreement of both the prosecution and the defence,” it added.
The officers are also being represented by Ulric Skerritt. Martin was represented by Criston J Williams, Blaine Sobrian, and Jade Martinez.
Nigel Pilgrim and Assistant DPP Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal represented the DPP’s Office.
The Office of the Attorney General was represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, Rishi Dass, SC, and Nicol Yee Fung.
The Law Association, which provided submissions on the appeal as it sets a legal precedent, was represented by Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, Rajiv Persad, John Heath, and attorney Peter Carter.
The Criminal Bar Association’s legal team included Daniel Khan and Ula Nathai-Lutchman.