Economía

Miami News Florida | 5 freed of businesswoman’s murder thanks to judge’s error

They are al­so claimed that the judge lim­it­ed their de­fence at­tor­neys’ ques­tions over Roderique be­ing al­lowed to plead guilty to felony mur­der in a sep­a­rate but sim­i­lar mur­der case be­fore he im­pli­cat­ed them

Af­ter spend­ing al­most 17 years in prison and fac­ing three tri­als, five men con­vict­ed of kid­nap­ping a busi­ness­woman and al­leged­ly bury­ing her alive have been set free. 

De­liv­er­ing a judge­ment, yes­ter­day morn­ing, Ap­pel­late Judges Al­ice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mark Mo­hammed and Prakash Moo­sai up­held an ap­peal from PhillipThe Boss” Boodram, Roger Mootoo, Ricky Singh, Kervin Williams, and Aaron “Arc Eye” Grap­pie over their manslaugh­ter con­vic­tion and the 28 year-sen­tence they re­ceived. 

The ap­peal pan­el’s de­ci­sion in the case was due to mul­ti­ple er­rors made by the High Court Judge, who presided over their sec­ond re­tri­al in 2016, which the judges claimed left them with a “lurk­ing doubt” as to whether their con­vic­tions were safe and sat­is­fac­to­ry. 

Jus­tice Yorke-Soo Hon, who de­liv­ered the pan­el de­ci­sion, said: “In our view, giv­en the se­ri­ous na­ture of the er­rors made by the tri­al judge, the mul­ti­ple ma­te­r­i­al ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties iden­ti­fied, along with the fact that the fair­ness of the tri­al was se­vere­ly com­pro­mised due to the ad­verse pub­lic­i­ty dur­ing the course of the tri­al, com­bined with the is­sues sur­round­ing the ev­i­dence of the pros­e­cu­tion’s main wit­ness, Roderique, our hands are tied and we have no al­ter­na­tive but to al­low this ap­peal.” 

Af­ter de­liv­er­ing its judge­ment, the ap­peal pan­el gave the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) an op­por­tu­ni­ty to con­sid­er whether it want­ed to pur­sue a third re­tri­al for the group. 

Deputy DPP Joan Honare-Paul re­turned af­ter a short break and in­formed the court that a re­tri­al was not re­quired giv­en the out­come of the group’s tri­al and re­tri­al and the is­sues raised with the sec­ond re­tri­al, which were the sub­ject of the ap­peal. 

The men were dis­charged and thanked the ap­peal pan­el for their de­ci­sion. 

The group’s ap­peal cen­tred around the State’s case against them which was ex­clu­sive­ly based on the tes­ti­mo­ny of Nigel “Cat” Roderique, who claimed that he was present at a meet­ing at which the kid­nap­ping was planned, and at Ram­per­sad’s even­tu­al death. 

Roderique al­so al­leged that Ram­per­sad was kid­napped as he and the men wrong­ly be­lieved that she was the moth­er of a man who al­leged­ly owed Boodram $700,000. 

In the ap­peal, the group’s lawyers con­tend­ed that the judge, who presided over their tri­al, made mul­ti­ple er­rors in ad­vis­ing the ju­ry on how to con­sid­er the cred­i­bil­i­ty and re­li­a­bil­i­ty of Roderique’s ev­i­dence.

They are al­so claimed that the judge lim­it­ed their de­fence at­tor­neys’ ques­tions over Roderique be­ing al­lowed to plead guilty to felony mur­der in a sep­a­rate but sim­i­lar mur­der case be­fore he im­pli­cat­ed them.

The ap­peal pan­el agreed with their com­plaints over the judge’s han­dling of Roderique’s ev­i­dence. 

“In our view, the judge ought to have di­rect­ed the ju­ry on these is­sues in a man­ner in which it would not have been lost on them that they were en­ti­tled to take in­to ac­count any sim­i­lar­i­ties in de­ter­min­ing whether Roderique might have been re­spon­si­ble for both deaths and any im­pact that this might have in re­la­tion to his cred­i­bil­i­ty,” the pan­el said in its ex­ec­u­tive sum­ma­ry. 

The judge al­so failed to prop­er­ly mar­shall the ev­i­dence of the bad blood be­tween Roderique and the ap­pel­lants which may have jus­ti­fied the in­fer­ence that Roderique’s ev­i­dence was taint­ed,” it added. 

The pan­el al­so up­held the men’s claim that the tri­al was com­pro­mised as the judge dis­missed con­cerns over a se­ries of con­tro­ver­sial re­ports pub­lished dur­ing the tri­al, which al­leged that Boodram was be­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ed in re­la­tion to the al­leged kid­nap­ping of a teacher, who was al­leged in a re­la­tion­ship with his daugh­ter. 

“We are of the view that an in­formed and fair-mind­ed ob­serv­er, who con­sid­ered the im­pugned print and me­dia pub­li­ca­tions, would con­clude that there was the re­al pos­si­bil­i­ty of bias af­fect­ing the mind or minds of one or more ju­rors,” it said. 

The group was rep­re­sent­ed by Ed­ward Fizt­ger­ald, QC, Paul Tay­lor, QC, Ra­jiv Per­sad, John Heath, Kel­ston Pope and Gabrielle Her­nan­dez. The State was al­so rep­re­sent­ed by As­sis­tant DPP Tri­cia Hudlin-Coop­er. 

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About the Case

The group was ini­tial­ly ac­cused of mur­der­ing Sam­daye Ram­per­sad. 

Ram­per­sad was kid­napped by masked men while stand­ing in front of her home in Pe­tit Bourg, San Juan on No­vem­ber 25, 2005. 

Her body was found 41 days lat­er in a shal­low grave in a cashew field in Car­oli­na Vil­lage, Clax­ton Bay.

One of the State’s wit­ness­es, foren­sic pathol­o­gist Hughvon des Vi­gnes, tes­ti­fied that an au­top­sy of Ram­per­sad’s body showed she died of as­phyx­ia and suf­fo­ca­tion con­sis­tent with be­ing buried alive.

Nine men were ini­tial­ly charged for Ram­per­sad’s mur­der, with three-Vi­vian Clarke, Steven McGillvery, and Per­nell Mar­tin – be­ing con­vict­ed on manslaugh­ter and sen­tenced to 30 years in prison in their first tri­al in 2009. 

An­oth­er ac­cused, Bob­by Sankar, was ac­quit­ted dur­ing that tri­al. 

Last year, the Privy Coun­cil up­held McGillvery’s ap­peal but af­firmed Clarke and Mar­tin’s con­vic­tions. 

The five re­main­ing ac­cused were put on tri­al again in 2012 but it end­ed in a hung ju­ry.

They were even­tu­al­ly con­vict­ed dur­ing a sec­ond re­tri­al which be­gan in 2016 and last­ed over a year. The men were each sen­tenced to 28 years in prison. 

The group was rep­re­sent­ed by Ed­ward Fizt­ger­ald, QC, Paul Tay­lor, QC, Ra­jiv Per­sad, John Heath, Kel­ston Pope and Gabrielle Her­nan­dez. The State was al­so rep­re­sent­ed by As­sis­tant DPP Tri­cia Hudlin-Coop­er.