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Judge to decide on murder warrant for cops

By Keino Swamber keino.swamber@trinidadexpress.com

THREE police officers for whom warrants of arrest for murder were issued by a coroner on March 26 are now awaiting the decision of a High Court Judge who will determine whether they have been successful in their challenge for judicial review of the coroner's order.

Senior Counsel Israel Khan, who represents the police officers, has described as scandalous the order of Magistrate Nalini Singh.

In the Port of Spain High Court at the Hall of Justice yesterday, Justice David Harris said he intends to give priority to the matter because of the length of time that has already elapsed since the warrants were issued.

Inter-Agency Task Force officers Sgt Terrence Roy and PCs Damany Bentick and Kero Baldwin are seeking judicial review of Singh's decision to have them charged with murdering 24-year-old Nazim Christian.

Christian was shot and killed at Mariquette Street, East Dry River, Port of Spain on May 5, 2005.

Civilian witnesses Erica John and her son Jivonne testified that Christian was taken from their home by certain police officers and he was beaten by them. They said Christian was surrounded by Baldwin, Bentick, Roy and two others when Bentick allegedly shot him.

The police officers gave a different version of the events. They testified that Christian was shot during an exchange of gunfire with them.

Their attorneys submitted before Harris yesterday that Singh failed to properly analyse the evidence and/or acted unreasonably when she held that there was sufficient grounds for the charges to be laid.

It was also argued that Singh failed to secure the attendance of the pathologist, who conducted the post mortem examination on Christian, to testify as to the trajectory of one of the wounds sustained by Christian.

The officers say Singh failed in her duty to carefully assess all the evidence before making a determination that a prima facie case, as required by law, was made out against the officers that they were responsible for Christian's death.

Khan also told Harris that Singh erred when she accepted the evidence of Erica John and Jivonne John and made no finding of disbelief in relation to the evidence of two senior police officers whose evidence was diametrically opposed to that of the Johns.

Attorney Jagdeo Singh, who represented the coroner, conceded that Coroner Singh, in the conduct of a 'judicial enquiry' has a duty to call, to testify, all the witnesses capable of giving material evidence. He said, however, that it is not automatic that the failure to call certain witnesses will automatically result in the inquest being quashed.

Attorney Singh argued that the law allows the coroner to use the pathologist's report as evidence and that she exercised her discretion not to call on the pathologist to give oral evidence.

He said the officers, as is required in judicial review proceedings, failed to establish that the procedure was flawed.

"It is not about the decision but the decision-making process which must be proven to be flawed," Singh (J) said.

Also appearing with Singh (J) were attorneys Donna Prowell-Raphael and Brent James while attorneys Ulric Skerritt and Safiya Charles appeared with Khan.

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