ROGER Ragoopath, who was accused of wounding a neighbor in an alleged robbery, over a decade ago, has been found not guilty by the judge at his virtual judge-alone trial.
Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds said on Tuesday there were glaring inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case against Ragoopath, particularly in the evidence of the victim, Ramesh Mungroo.
She said the evidence presented by the State could not meet the threshold to convince her of the facts, and there was reasonable doubt as to whether he committed the offence.
“No matter the charge or trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove guilt is part of the common law, and there can be no attempt to whittle it down,” she said as she told Ragoopath he was not guilty and discharged him.
Ragoopath was alleged to have robbed Mungroo with violence on September 2, 2007, close to where they lived in South Oropouche.
Mungroo was allegedly walking near his home when he was attacked, slashed with a knife and robbed of $80 and a cellphone by Ragoopath and another man.
Mungroo survived and identified his attackers, but died in unrelated circumstances before the case went to trial. His evidence at the preliminary inquiry at the magistrates’ courts was used at Ragoopath’s trial.
Ramsumair-Hinds said although the law provided for statements and deposition of dead witnesses or victims to be tendered into evidence, there were limitations because of the inability to scrutinise them in cross-examination or by the prosecution closing the gaps. She also said it was a situation where the evidence the police prosecution could have marshalled the evidence at the preliminary inquiry with a “great deal more circumspection.”
She also found Ragoopath’s evidence credible.
He was represented by attorney Renuka Rambhajan, but will not be immediately released from prison, as he is awaiting trial on another matter.
His alleged co-accomplice is also before the judge, being tried separately. The matter is expected to come up later this week.
The last time the case was called, in early November, Ramsumair-Hinds ruled against a prosecution application to join Ragoopath’s alleged accomplice, who was arrested in October. She also ruled against aborting the trial.
Ragoopath first gave evidence on October 29. In his testimony he said hours before the incident, with Mungroo tried to molest him at a play park in the community.
Ragoopath, who was 15 at the time, said he told his friend and they agreed to confront Mungroo.
He admitted that his friend and Mungroo had a scuffle and claimed he ran away when he saw Mungroo was bleeding from a wound to his neck. Ragoopath also denied robbing Mungroo.
Ragoopath allegedly told police when confronted over the incident in his mother's presence: "I really had a knife on me. Me and (name called) went to teach Ramesh a lesson. He like to touch boys. He get he throat cut and we run."
In cross-examination by lead prosecutor Maria Lyons-Edwards, Ragoopath insisted there was an incident between himself and Mungroo at the play park earlier that night. He maintained the man tried to pull his pants down and interfere with him.
He denied he grabbed Mungroo around his neck or that he had a knife. He admitted to having a metal putty knife but referred to it as a "putty paste" and said he used it to clean fish.
Mungroo "was just looking for something to make up because what he do earlier that day,” Ragoopath said, insisting also that he did not slit Mungroo’s throat.
While admitting he was upset after the incident in the play park, he said he had no intention of “doing what happen.”
“You just left him there for dead,” Lyons-Edwards put to him. He replied, “When I see the blood, I get frightened and run.”
He also said he only found out about the money and cellphone when the charge was read to him at the Siparia police station before he appeared in court.