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Sunday 26 May 2019
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Judge-alone trials off to efficient start

IN 90 minutes, seven witnesses’ evidence were adduced as TT created legal history yesterday when a murder accused began to be tried by a judge, not 12 jurors.

Kwasi Forde, of Upper Hillside, San Fernando, was arraigned before Justice Gillian Lucky in the San Fernando High Court, for the October 10, 2005 murder of Gerald Bocas, at Cover Girl bar, Carib Street. With last Friday’s proclamation of the Miscellaneous Provision (Trial by Judge Alone) Act, 2017, the wheels of criminal justice spun off to a hectic start before Lucky who gave Forde the choice of trial by jury or judge- alone.

Yesterday, Forde returned to court and maintained his choice for judge-alone. Lucky then sent the packed courtroom of jurors back to their respective workplaces at 10 am. The judicial support officer arraigned Forde and instead of a jury, he was put in charge of the judge after pleading not guilty. There was obviously no need to caution a jury panel to harken to the evidence.

Senior state attorney Trevor Jones, who opened the prosecution’s case, and attorney Larry Williams who is representing Forde, referred to Lucky as “judge” instead of the traditional “M’Lady” or “M’Lud”, throughout the proceedings.

It was at about 10 pm when four men entered Cover Girl Restaurant & Bar and robbed the patrons. Several gun-shots were fired and Bocas collapsed and died. The evidence of DMO Dr Oumatee Arjoon-Singh, police photographer Voster Yearwood, police draughtsman Gregory Hood and Bocas’ wife, Hazra Ibrahim, were read to Lucky.

The testimony is recorded and there is no need for the judge to write the evidence.

Jones called Cover Girl owner Narine Nanansingh who testified that he went to the cash-registry but when he looked around, he saw men with guns. He quickly pushed a door opened and went into a room. While he was on the phone to the police, gun shots rang out. He peeped through a hole and saw men, but their faces were covered.

Nanansingh was shown photographs and cross-examined by Williams. Photographs for the jurors, were instead given to five interns at the bar table, one of whom was political leader of the Congress Of the People, Carolyn Seepersad Bachan, who is due to be called to the bar as an attorney in April.

Next witnesses were bar patron Damien Gopaulsingh and Anthony Paul. Quite noticeable yesterday were the empty chairs in the jury enclosure and the efficiency in which the evidence was adduced. With no jury to put out of court and hearing during objections by defence attorney, or, to warn and advise on how to treat with certain evidence, the judge-alone trial was uninterrupted without the usual mid-morning break for jurors to stretch their legs.

And, no need for the court to order lunch from caterers. Trial continues today.

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