Monday, February 19, 2018

Trial into 2006 murder to start today



Mark Fraser

MORE than seven years after she was abducted from her Lange Park, Chaguanas, home and subsequently murdered, the trial into the death of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman will begin today at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

Three of the country’s top legal minds—senior counsel Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and Dana Seetahal—will be leading the State’s case against the 12 men accused of kidnapping and murdering Naipaul-Coolman, 52, in December 2006.

At 9 a.m., Khan will deliver the prosecution’s four-hour opening statement to the 12-member jury and six alternate jurors before Justice Malcolm Holdip in the Second Criminal Court.

A total of 74 prosecution witnesses will give evidence in the case, which is expected to continue over the course of several months and possibly into next year, legal sources said.

The prosecution will be relying mainly on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and the piecing together of circumstantial evidence to prove its case, as Naipaul-Coolman’s body was never found.

It is being considered as one of the most high-profile murder trials since ten men were sentenced to hang on August 7, 2001, for the murder of Thackoor Boodram, brother of executed murderer Nankissoon “Dole Chadee” Boodram.

In June of last year, the last member of the jury was selected, but the matter failed to come to a start as attorneys for the State and the defence had been engaging in voir dire arguments to iron out certain legal issues prior to the start of the trial.

Two courtrooms have been connected via video and audio link to facilitate the large number of attorneys involved in the matter.

Prosecuting attorneys, lead defence attorneys and the accused men will be facilitated before the judge in the Second Criminal Court, while the Third Criminal Court has been designated for instructing attorneys and members of the public wanting to listen in on the proceedings.

Those on trial are: Allan Martin, Shervon Peters, Keida Garcia, brothers Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraser, Lyndon James, Devon Peters, Anthony Dwayne Gloster and Jamille Garcia.

They were committed to stand trial at the High Court in July 2008, by former Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls.

Another man, Raphael Williams, who was also accused of murdering Naipaul-Coolman, died in prison from complications of sickle cell anaemia in 2010.

Also prosecuting the case are State attorneys Joy Balkaran and Kelly Thompson.

The Legal Aid and Advisory Board has provided legal representation for the accused men, including attorneys Wayne Sturge, Ulric Skerritt, Mario Merritt, Selwyn Mohammed, Collin Selvon, Ian Brooks, Viveka Pargass and Lana Lakhan, among others.

Insp Michael Veronique of the Homi­cide Bureau of Investigations is the substitute complainant in the matter, having taken over the case from the officer who laid the charges following his retirement.