Saturday, January 20, 2018

Juror a no-show

...Trial adjourned to Monday


Let out early: Rennie Coolman walks yesterday outside the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, after the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial was adjourned. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

Mark Fraser

ONE of the jurors in the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial was a no-show at the recommencement of the case at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday, forcing the matter to be adjourned without any evidence being heard once again.

High Court Judge Justice Malcolm Holdip was left with no choice but to adjourn the case in the absence of the alternate juror after he failed to show up in court by 11.30 a.m.

The matter was initially called around 10 a.m., with defence attorney Mario Merritt expected to begin his cross-examination of Naipaul-Coolman’s husband, Rennie Coolman.

However, when the jurors entered the room, the jury’s foreman informed the judge he was unable to make any contact with the alternate juror via telephone. “Both his phones are going to voice mail,” the foreman told the judge.

This resulted in Holdip standing down the matter, and informing attorneys and the jurors court officials and police officers would attempt making contact with the juror.

When it was recalled, Holdip again asked the foreman if he had any success in contacting the juror, to which the foreman said he did not.

The judge then proceeded to inform the attorneys and jurors all attempts by officers and court officials were also unsuccessful.

“We have made several efforts without any success. There is no reason for his absence, as no contact was made with the juror. Because of this, the matter cannot efficiently proceed,” said Holdip.

Yesterday’s proceedings were scheduled to conclude at 12.30 p.m. 

Holdip said checks were also made at the juror’s home, without any favourable response, adding that natural justice does not entail him making any further statement regarding the absence until he heard directly from the juror and his reasons for not showing up in court.

Yesterday was the first day since last week Thursday that all parties in the matter were prepared for the hearing of evidence.

On that day, objections were raised by special State prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, during a particular line of Coolman’s cross-examination by defence attorney Kwesi Bekoe.

Since then, attorneys on both sides had been engaged in voir dire arguments as they sought to iron out those legal issues.

Vindra Naipaul-Coolman was kidnapped from the driveway of her home at Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas, on December 19, 2006, and subsequently murdered. Her body has never been found.

Rennie Coolman is the sixth of 74 State witnesses expected to give evidence at the trial.

So far, three police officers, who were among some of the first to arrive at the scene of the kidnapping, have given evidence.

Naipaul-Coolman’s daughter, Risha Ali, and the family’s former live-in housekeeper, Rasheedan Yacoob, have also been cross-examined after giving their evidence in chief.

The matter resumes on Monday.


The case at a glance



• Malcolm Holdip


State attorneys

• Israel Khan, SC

• Gilbert Peterson, SC

• Dana Seetahal, SC

• Joy Balkaran

• Kelly Thompson


Defence attorneys

• Wayne Sturge

• Mario Merritt

• Ulric Skerritt

• Kwesi Bekoe

• Selwyn Mohammed

• Colin Selvon

• Ian Brooks

• Richard Valere

• Joseph Pantor 

• Lennox Sankarsingh

• Vince Charles

• Christian Chandler

• Delicia Helwig

• Alexia Romero

• Stacy Benjamin-Roach

• Nicholas Ali

• Stephen Wilson

• Thalia Megan-Francis

• Shervon Noriega

• Lana Lakhan

• Clydene Crevelle



• Shervon Peters

• Keida Garcia

• Marlon Trimmingham

• Earl Trimmingham

• Ronald Armstrong

• Antonio Charles

• Joel Fraser

• Lyndon James

• Allan Martin

• Devon Peters

• Anthony Dwayne Gloster

• Jamille Garcia