The group of men accused of murdering former independent senator Dana Seetahal, SC, will have to wait a while longer before they are officially committed to stand trial for the crime.
Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno was expected to complete the process, which signals the close of the preliminary inquiry in the case, when it came up for virtual hearing yesterday by calling on the accused men to either testify in the defence or call defence witnesses.
However, while being questioned by Cedeno, two of the 10 men said they would bring witnesses to testify in their defence. But their co-accused refused as they indicated their attorneys would write to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on the issue within 10 days.
In his conversation with Cedeno, Gareth Wiseman, one of the men who intends to call witnesses, appeared to use obscene language and was accused of being uncooperative.
“I was in a beach house in Mayaro. Proceed with the matter nah,” Wiseman initially said.
Wiseman then corrected himself as he claimed he was being sarcastic.
“How could I have an alibi. I have been in prison for 17 years…Just hurry up and sign the thing nah,” Wiseman said.
Once Wiseman and Devaughn Cummings’ witnesses have testified, Cedeno is expected to consider the evidence and sign off on the committal documents. The case is expected to come up for hearing next Wednesday.
Seetahal was shot dead while driving her SUV along Hamilton Holder Street in Woodbrook on May 4, 2014. On July 25, 2015, Ali, his brothers Ishmael and Hamid Ali; Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Stephan Cummings, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales; Roget Boucher and Gareth Wiseman were charged with the crime.
Ali’s wife Stacy Griffith, Deon Peters and David Ector were charged under the Anti-Gang Act for being members of a gang, while Griffith was additionally charged with assisting the gang.
The gang charges were initially dismissed based on the fact that they were laid indictably (heard and determined by a High Court Judge and jury), as opposed to summarily (heard and determined by a magistrate) as required for first-time offenders under the legislation.
The issue resulted in Peters and Ector being freed. Griffith remained before the court as she was slapped with the additional charge that was properly laid. Griffith’s charge for assisting the gang has since been discontinued by the DPP’s Office.
The Court of Appeal eventually reversed Cedeno’s decision and reinstated charges for being members of a gang. Ector was murdered in July 2018 so only Peters was rearrested and recharged.
The reinstated charges are now set to go before Magistrate Sarah De Silva.
Stephan Cummings was initially charged for the murder but in December 2017 was made a State witness. The charge was discontinued against him and he was instead charged with conspiring to murder Seetahal.
Last week, Cedeno dismissed a series of no case submissions from the accused men.
The accused are being represented by Mario Merritt, Randall Raphael, Karunaa Bisramsingh and Roshan Tota-Maharaj. The case is being prosecuted by Gilbert Peterson, SC and Assistant DPP George Busby.