The Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal of 10 men convicted of the murder of the brother of drug kingpin Dole Chadee, who were seeking to quash their convictions on the basis of fresh claims that the State's main witness admitted to fabricating the case against them.
Delivering a written decision at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday, Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai refused to admit the fresh evidence provided by witness Junior Grandison, almost a decade after the group of men were convicted for murdering Thackoor Boodram in 1997.
As part of their decision, the judges upheld their convictions and the life sentences, which they have been serving.
Boodram, a pig farmer, was kidnapped from his home at Spring Village, Valsayn on December 20, 1997.
A ransom was demanded by his abductors, but 10 days later his decapitated head was found in a whiskey box at the Caroni Cremation Site.
Michael “Rat” Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damian "Tommy" Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath "Farmer" Ramiah, Daniel "Fella" Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, Mark Jaikaran and Junior "Heads" Phillip were convicted in August 2001.
Their earlier appeals against their murder conviction to the Court of Appeal and Privy Council were rejected, but the latter commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment as there had been delays in hearing their cases.
In June 2011, Grandison, the State's main witness, gave the sworn statement in which he claimed to have been coerced by Boodram's brother Panalal "Don" Boodram into implicating the men, whom he knew.
The two allegedly met in prison, while Grandison was awaiting trial for the murders of Ian George and Walter Regis and the attempted murder of Courtney Reid.
Those charges were dropped in exchange for his testimony against the group.
Two of the men petitioned former president Anthony Carmona to review their case in light of the new evidence.
In January 2015, Carmona exercised his power to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.
During hearings of the appeal, last year, Grandison repeatedly refused to attend court to testify before the appeal panel and could not be compelled to do so. In addition to the statement, the men were relying on recorded telephone conversations between Grandison and two of the accused men, in which he admitted to fabricating the case.
State prosecutors relied on another signed statement from Grandison, which said that he was coerced by the men into recanting his evidence.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Derek Achong)