AFTER a one-week break following the assassination of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, the Vindra Naipaul-Coolman murder trial resumed at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday.
Upon the resumption of the case, Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson informed Justice Malcolm Holdip that the prosecution was in a position to carry on with the matter without another State attorney being appointed to replace Seetahal.
In announcing the prosecution’s appearance in court, Senior State attorney Joy Balkaran said: “As was mentioned before, Miss Seetahal will no longer be joining us. She was murdered on May 4th, 2014.”
Last Monday, Holdip brought the matter to a stop for one week for the prosecution to decide how it intended to proceed without Seetahal. She had been prosecuting the matter alongside Peterson, Balkaran and Kelly Thompson led by Special State prosecutor Senior Counsel Israel Khan.
During yesterday’s hearing, one State witness, Cpl Peter Francis, was called to testify.
Francis was one of the officers who went to Naipaul-Coolman’s Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas home on the night of December 19, 2006, after she was kidnapped. He is the eighth of 74 State witnesses expected to testify during the trial.
Francis, who was led into giving his evidence-in-chief by Peterson, testified on the date of the abduction he was attached to Chaguanas Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in the fingerprint department.
Francis said when he went to the address, he noticed the driveway of the house had been cordoned off with police caution tape and a blue Kia Sportage van with broken windows was parked in the said driveway.
He further testified he noticed a red substance that appeared to be blood and a pair of dentures on the ground. Francis said after further searching, he found five spent bullet shells, two projectiles and black plastic tie straps.
The officer said he placed certain markings on the items before packaging them for testing at the Forensic Science Centre, Federation Park, St James. He said he also took swab samples of the red substance for testing.
After leaving the crime scene, Francis said he returned the following day and dusted the Kia Sportage for fingerprints. On the right front door of the van, Francis said he was able to lift a print but it could not have been identified based on a lack of detail.
The items collected and marked at the scene together with the blood samples were taken to the Forensic Centre on December 22, said Francis.
He testified on January 4, 2007, he went back to the Centre where he was given certificates of analysis following the examination of the items.
The officer’s evidence was interrupted when defence attorney Wayne Sturge raised certain objections. This resulted in the 12-member jury and six alternates being led out of the courtroom as attorneys engaged in in-camera arguments.
On resumption of the trial, members of the jury were given the opportunity to view the certificates of analysis, which concluded that three of the bullet casings found had been fired from an Uzi firearm while the other two were fired from a Glock handgun. The certificates were then tendered into evidence.
Peterson asked that the jurors also be allowed to view the items found, but this was unable to be facilitated yesterday.
Holdip explained that those handling the exhibits would be required to wear protective gloves in doing so. Also, based on the time of the day the request was made, he was of the opinion it would have been in the best interest of everyone involved in the trial that the matter be called off for the day.
Francis will re-enter the witness box this morning for cross-examination by attorneys representing the 12 men accused of murdering Naipaul-Coolman.
Israel Khan SC
Gilbert Peterson SC
Anthony Dwayne Gloster