A jilted husband and his friend, who allegedly solicited and contracted a hitman to murder his ex-wife and her new lover, a little over 13 years ago, have won their appeal against their convictions.
In an oral judgment delivered at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mark Mohammed and Prakash Moosai upheld seven of the nine grounds raised by attorney Jagdeo Singh, on behalf of Basdeo “Bas” Ramlochan and Siewkumar “Bobby” Chanka-Persad.
Mohammed, who wrote the judgment, claimed that trial judge Malcolm Holdip made multiple errors in “all four corners” of the case, which made their convictions unsafe.
While the judges quashed their mandatory death sentences, they did not immediately order a retrial or stay the indictment as they solicited further submissions from Singh and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Presenting preliminary submissions, Singh questioned whether the long period since the commission of the offence would affect an eventual retrial.
Although DPP Roger Gaspard said no, he requested additional time to inform the court whether a retrial is viable and how soon it could begin.
The appeal panel is expected to determine the issue when the case comes up for hearing, next week.
Ramlochan’s estranged wife Sunita “Michelle” Ramlochan, 29, and her common-law husband Rahim “Bam” Abraham were murdered at her father’s home at Kuldip Trace, St John’s Village, Avocat, on October 15, 2006.
The couple and Sunita’s 11-year-old daughter, who is Ramlochan’s child, had just returned home from a visit to the Divali Nagar site when they were attacked and shot several times.
The State’s case was not that Ramlochan and Chanka-Persad pulled the trigger, but that they sought out and hired a hitman to do it.
In addition to alleged statements from Ramlochan and Chanka-Persad, State prosecutors also led evidence from a security guard who claimed that Ramlochan approached him on six occasions between 2004 and 2006, to help him, someone, to carry out the murders.
Another State witness claimed that Ramlochan told him that he had marital problems and that he paid a hitman $90,000 to kill her but he did not perform the task.
He also claimed that Ramlochan also claimed that he had been introduced to another hitman and showed him the $30,000 he was going to use to pay him.
In its judgement in the case, the appeal panel ruled that when Holdip summed up the legal issues in the case to the jury that eventually convicted the men, he failed to properly advise them on the duo’s previous good character and on how to properly analyse the evidence of the contentious witnesses.
The judges also ruled that Holdip, who was recently elevated to the Court of Appeal, also failed to make distinctions in the State’s case against each man.
The men are also being represented by Rekha Ramjit and Renuka Rambhajan.
Reporter: Derek Achong