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State moves to treat main witness as hostile

By Keino Swamber keino.swamber@trinidadexpress.com

THE State's main witness in the trial of a man charged with murdering four men who were playing a game of dominoes six years ago has been deemed to be hostile by the prosecutor.

In the Port of Spain First Assizes yesterday, Senior State attorney Joy Balkaran sought leave on several occasions to have Johann Cruickshank Samuel refresh his memory from the statement he gave to the police as well as his deposition which was recorded in the Chaguanas Magistrates Court.

Having failed to elicit the expected responses, Balkaran told Justice Prakash Moosai, in the presence of the 12-member jury with five alternates, that she wished to make an application to treat Samuel as a hostile witness.

On trial for shooting to death Reynold Elie, 53, Gerard Gibson, 52, Christopher Nelson, 46, and Willard Bolivar, 30, is Ezra Bhagwandeen.

The incident occurred outside a parlour at Kernahan Trace, Chin Chin Road, Cunupia on August 18, 2006.

Samuel, also called "Wally" and "Waldrond" told the court yesterday that he lived at Kernahan Trace, Chin Chin Road. He said he attended mosque at Temple Street on August 18, 2006 and left there at around 1 p.m.

Samuel testified that he boarded a taxi driven by someone known to him as "Channa".

"I sat in the back seat," Samuel said.

"There were two female passengers in the car. One was sitting in front and one was in the back."

Asked by Balkaran if anyone else was picked up along the way, Samuel said he could not remember.

Shown the statement which he gave to the police on August 22, 2006, Samuel said he did not say some of the things contained in the statement. He told the court that he was forced by the police to give the statement and he was also forced to sign it.

"I did not have any choice at that time."

Having looked at the statement, Samuel was asked again if "Channa" had picked up anybody along the way. Samuel said a male passenger had entered the taxi.

Asked if the male passenger was someone he knew, Samuel said "no".

In response to Balkaran, Samuel said he was telling the truth when he gave the statement to the police.

Shown his statement again, Samuel was asked if he maintained that he did not know the passenger. He repeated that he did not.

His deposition was placed in his hands. Samuel was asked whether he swore to tell the truth and whether he signed the deposition. He answered in the affirmative. He denied, however, that the deposition was read to him after he testified in the magistrates court.

"Do you still maintain that you did not know the passenger who got in the car ?" Balkaran asked.

Samuel responded: "I do not know the passenger. It was a dougla fella but I do not know him."

The application to have him declared hostile was then made.

The jury was told to return on Friday while legal arguments were made in their absence.

Bhagwandeen, also called "Dougla", is being represented by attorneys Michelle Solomon-Baksh and Raphael Morgan.

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