ALL ten men accused of murdering senior attorney and former independent senator Dana Seetahal, SC, were on Thursday committed to stand trial.
Former LifeSport coordinator Rajaee Ali was also committed to stand trial on the charge of being a gang leader. He was granted $300,000 bail on that charge.
Their committals came at the end of the testimony of acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan who was summoned as a defence witness for one of the men.
At the close of the defence’s case, Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno invited final submissions from both prosecutors and defence attorneys.
With nothing coming from either side, the magistrate proceeded with the committal orders.
“The court having considered all of the evidence on behalf of the prosecution and the accused, it finds that there is sufficient evidence… prima facie in relation to the offence for each of the accused,” she said, then proceeded to read out the committal orders for each man.
Copies of the orders will be delivered to the ten at the three prisons.
“This brings us to the end of the proceedings virtually. This had been perhaps a landmark case,” she admitted.
The inquiry began in 2015 with almost 100 witnesses for the State. Hearings were held mainly on Fridays and this led to an almost weekly shutdown of the downtown Port of Spain area where the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court is located.
With the covid19 pandemic, the sittings were switched to electronic hearings.
“We have weathered the storm and it has come to an end,” Cedeno said as she thanked the attorneys for ensuring justice was done as far as they were able to given the constraints.
Two Fridays ago, Cedeno ruled that a prima facie case had been made out by prosecutors against the ten men.
She also cautioned them and advised them of their rights to provide an alibi.
They have refused to sign the notices of alibi as well as the caution statements which were also individually taken to the three prisons where they are remanded by registrars of the court.
Before the court were Rajaee Ali, Devaughn Cummings, Ishmael Ali, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Gareth Wiseman, Hamid Ali, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales, Roget Boucher. Stephan Cummings was discharged of Seetahal’s murder in December 2017, after the DPP exercised powers under section 90(c) of the Constitution and discontinued proceedings.
Instead, Cummings was charged with conspiracy to murder and became a state witness against his brother and the others. Seetahal was shot dead on May 4, 2014, in Woodbrook as she made her way home.
Other than Ali who is charged with being a gang leader, the other men are also faced with being members of a gang.
They will face a separate magistrate on those charges after they were reinstated by the Court of Appeal in March.
The charges were initially dismissed by Cedeno in 2016 because of an administrative blunder by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in laying them.
At that time prosecutors tried to have the magistrate amend the charges which were incorrectly laid as indictable charges as opposed to summarily for first offenders, as prescribed by the Anti-Gang Act.
Cedeno refused the application and the prosecution appealed.
The 14 were all charged on July 25, 2015, with being members of a gang during the period March 14, 2014 – July 24, 2015.
The prosecution was represented by Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson, Assistant Director of Public Prosecution George Busby, and attorneys Elaine Greene and Andrea Johnson while defence attorneys Mario Merritt, Karunaa Bisramsingh and Roshan Tota-Maharaj made up the defence team for the ten men.