PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Caribbean News Now) — Prosecutors in Trinidad have made another blunder in the case again ten men charged with the 2014 murder of former independent senator Dana Seetahal, SC.
The latest mistake occurred in the state’s appeal over a decision by Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno to dismiss gang charges against the group and two of their acquaintances in 2016, due to an administrative error by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Trinidad Guardian reported.
Hours before the appeal was due to be heard on Thursday, special prosecutor Travers Sinanan and assistant DPP Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar informed the court’s registry that their office had filed the notice of appeal late.
While it had 14 days to appeal Cedeno’s ruling, given on May 27, 2016, it filed the appeal on June 13 that year.
During Thursday’s hearing, Sinanan and Teelucksingh-Ramoutar applied to have the appeal withdrawn, but were given a lifeline as appellate judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Rajendra Narine suggested they file an application to have the deadline extended retroactively.
Once that application is filed it will be determined by one appellate judge. Provided that the state succeeds in its application, the appeal will then be heard by Yorke-Soo Hon and Narine, the Guardian reported
Seetahal was shot dead in her SUV on May 4, 2014.
Alleged gang-leader Rajaee Ali, his brothers Ishmael and Hamid Ali; Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Stephan Cummings, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales; Roger Boucher and Gareth Wiseman were initially charged with the crime. They, along with Rajaee’s wife Stacy Griffith, Deon Peters and David Ector, were also charged under the Anti-Gang Act for being members of a gang.
In 2016, the DDP’s Office applied to amend the gang charges due to an administrative error made when they were laid on the group.
The DPP’s Office had admitted to filing the charges indictably (heard and determined by a High Court Judge and jury) as opposed to summarily (heard and determined by a magistrate) as prescribed by the legislation. Cedeno dismissed the charges as she ruled the time for making the amendment had expired.
Peters and Ector were set free, while Griffith remained in custody on an unrelated gang offence that was not affected by the blunder. Ector was murdered last week.
In December last year, the murder charge was discontinued against Stephan Cummings, who was instead charged with conspiring to murder Seetahal.
While the prosecution considers its position, the preliminary inquiry into the murder charge has hit another snag.
Evidentiary hearings of the inquiry have been put on hold as Cedeno is considering an application calling on her to recuse herself from the case.