LEGAL history was created yesterday when a judge accepted the guilty plea of three men on the charge of murder.
Alexander Don Juan Nicholas, 36; Gregory Tan, 35; and Oren Lewis, 31; admitted killing Jerry David Boodoo in 2002, an offence that would usually carry the mandatory sentence of death by hanging.
However, as a result of a 2011 Privy Council judgment, the State accepted that the three men committed the murder under circumstances that would allow a judge to decide sentence.
The three will be sentenced November 30.
The case was first called before Justice Andre Mon Desir in the San Fernando Third Criminal Court in June, when a jury was empanelled.
However, no evidence was heard while the State and defence attorneys argued the legal points related to how the victim died.
Yesterday, the murder charge was read and the jury was ordered by the judge to return a verdict of "guilty of murder on the basis of the felony murder rule".
The rule was activated by a June 15, 2011 Privy Council judgment, in which the British Law Lords ruled that the mandatory sentence of death imposed against convicted killer Nimrod Miguel be quashed, and the question of sentence be remitted to the court.
In commenting last year on the Privy Council ruling, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard said the death penalty cannot be imposed against offenders found guilty of murder in a specific category of cases where the prosecution is based solely on the legal doctrine of a violent arrestable offence, murder, thus this country's version of the felony murder rule.
In court yesterday, defence attorney Larry Williams said: "It is the first time ever we have ventured into this realm in Trinidad and Tobago."
A psychiatric report was done on each man before they were allowed to plead guilty.
Nicholas, also known by the aliases Taz; Zander and Redman, Tan, also called Bones; and Lewis; all of Brazil Village near Arima, had the charge read to them that on a day unknown between August 26 and September 2, 2002 at Mayaro, they murdered Boodoo.
After each entered a guilty plea, State attorney Sabrina Dougdeen outlined the events surrounding Boodoo's death.
She said August 27, 2002 was the last time Boodoo, 29, of La Horquetta, was seen alive.
Dougdeen said four months before the killing, Nicholas and Tan were playing poker, when a man told Nicholas that he wanted car parts for a Nissan Sunny car. Nicholas told him he could find some for him.
Around 10 p.m. on August 27, Nicholas, Tan, Lewis and another person entered Boodoo's blue "PH" B11 Sunny, when he pulled onto the Brazil, Arima taxi stand.
The accused told the driver they were dropping at different locations along the route.
On the way, Tan and Lewis pulled Boodoo into the back seat where they beat him while Nicholas drove the car.
"The deceased begged the men, telling them he had a little daughter to see about and to take the car and go," Dougdeen said.
But Lewis said Boodoo had seen too much and he and Tan continued to beat and cuff Boodoo.
"They took out the deceased's belt and were choking him with it," Dougdeen said.
Boodoo was heard gasping for breath and then "a crack" was heard.
Lewis said: "He dead."
Nicholas said: "Allyuh kill the man...boy, that is lifetime in jail," and he steupsed.
Boodoo was placed in the trunk of the car and the men went to a gas station where they bought soft drinks and sweet bread with the $63 they got from their victim.
They then went to Manzanilla and threw Boodoo's body into the Mitan River.
The vehicle was scrapped and parts sold.
On September 1, 2002, Boodoo's body was found floating in mangrove in the Mitan River. His body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that the pathologist was unable to determine the cause of death.
The pathologist stated that he could have possibly died from strangulation, an arm lock, a severe blow to the neck, suffocation or drowning.
Police later arrested the three men.
Tan said they all thought the man was alive when they threw him in the river.
Attorneys Lennox Sanguinette, Larry Williams and Richard Valere, who appeared along with attorney Marissa Bobb, represented the men.
The defence asked for time to make written submissions with regard to mitigation.
Mon Desir said the request was "absolutely reasonable with regards to the circumstances".
The men also pleaded guilty to an August 30, 2002 incident in which they were charged with unlawfully detaining Nazim Dean against his will, robbery with aggravation after they stole Dean's gold chain, watch, wallet, bank cards and $650 cash and also false imprisonment of Dean.
Nicholas, Tan and Lewis are expected to be sentenced on all charges on November 30.