AFTER a fleeting look of shock, resignation set in on the faces of the ten men serving a life sentence for the murder of Thackoor Boodram, after they were told they had lost their appeal again.
Boodram was the brother of hanged drug kingpin Dole Chadee.
The ten were upbeat before the decision was announced by Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai. After the court dismissed their appeal and affirmed their convictions and sentences, they barely gestured to relatives in the courtroom at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
The media were told the men had come to court with their bags, perhaps expecting to be released. Their mood changed after they were taken back down into the holding cells while waiting to be transported to prison. “They’re in shock. They’re hardly talking,” sources said.
The ten contended that their convictions – which were based on the testimony of Junior Grandison, the State’s main witness against them at trial – were unsafe and must be overturned by the appellate court.
They had convinced former president Anthony Carmona to send their case back to the Appeal Court to consider Grandison’s about-turn in a statutory declaration, made on June 1, 2011, in which he claimed he had lied under oath, and that the evidence he gave at the trial “was false and did not represent the truth.”
Grandison was the main witness in the trial of Michael “Rat” Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damian “Tommy” Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath “Farmer” Ramiah, Daniel “Fella” Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, Mark “Bico” Jaikaran and Junior “Heads” Phillips.
The ten were convicted on August 7, 2001, after a trial which lasted 33 days. They lost their appeals but escaped the hangman’s noose because of the delay in hearing their appeals at the Privy Council. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
At the appellate court, despite attempts by the State and subpoenas issued by the court compelling his attendance in court, Grandison never showed up.
In their 70-page written decision, the judges said they were satisfied that the evidence presented to them at the appeal “did not justify disturbing the conviction.”
Grandison gave statements to the police in 1998, implicating nine of the ten men in Boodram’s kidnapping and murder, they noted. They also said those statements were consistent with his trial testimony in 2001.
“That evidence was tested at trial and accepted by the jury. The circumstances surrounding his statutory declaration retracting his trial testimony ten years later, and the fact that we were unable to assess him in person on this matter, have no impact on the validity of his trial testimony.”
The judges also pointed out that Hailie Amoroso also gave independent evidence implicating Phillip, and identifying him as the principal in Boodram’s murder.
They said there was also Phillip’s confession, and the evidence of another witness linking Phillip and Leslie Huggins to the others in the plan to kidnap and kill.
“When all of this evidence is taken into account, the State’s case against the appellants could not fairly be described as tenuous or uncertain,” the judges said.
Boodram was kidnapped and beheaded in 1997. The appeal was prosecuted by Travers Sinanan and Asst DPP Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar.
Michael Maharaj, who testified at the appeal, was represented by British Queen’s Counsel Edward Fitzgerald, Jagdeo Singh and Karina Singh, who also represented Damien Ramiah.
Attorneys Richard Clarke-Wills and Celeste St Louis represented Samuel Maharaj; Amarelle Francis and Susan Kalipersad represented Bobby Ramiah; Kirk Hogan and Melissa Mano represented Seenath Ramiah; Petal Baird represented Daniel Gopaul; Frank Peterson represented Richard Huggins; Ravi Rajah and Dianne Mano represented Leslie Huggins; Ian Brooks and Shane Kingston represented Jaikaran; and Keith Scotland and Asha Watkins-Monsterin represented Phillip.
TEN men serving a life sentence for the murder of hanged drug kingpin Dole Chadee’s brother Thackoor Boodram, have lost their appeal.
The convictions and sentences of the ten were yesterday affirmed by appellate court judges, Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai.
The ten sought to have the appellate court reopen their appeal to admit new evidence - that of the prosecution’s main witness Junior Grandison, who in 2011, swore in a statutory declaration that he lied at the 2001 trial.
Grandison — then the country’s ‘most wanted man’ — did not testify at the appeal, although summonses were issued for him to do so.
Grandison, in his statutory declaration dated June 1, 2011, swore that evidence he gave at the trial, “was false and did not represent the truth.” He was the main witness in the prosecution of ‘Rat’ Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien ‘Tommy’ Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath ‘Farmer’ Ramiah, Daniel ‘Fella’ Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, Mark ‘Bico’ Jaikaran and Junior ‘Heads’ Phillip.
They were convicted on August 7, 2001, after a trial which lasted 33 days. The ten lost their appeals before the Court of Appeal but escaped the hangman’s noose because of the delay in hearing appeals at the London Privy Council.
Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
Boodram was kidnapped and beheaded in 1997.