Hall of Justice Port-of-Spain

A man from San Juan, who was sentenced to hang for murdering his cousin’s common-law husband during an argument with her, has won his appeal against his conviction.

Delivering an oral judgment during a virtual hearing yesterday, Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mark Mohammed and Maria Wilson quashed Anthony “Balkie” Maraj’s conviction as they ruled that judge, who presided over his trial, made errors in summarising the legal issues to the jury that eventually found him guilty of the crime.

Despite scoring the legal victory, Maraj did not walk out the court as a free man as the appeal panel ordered that he face a retrial.

Maraj was convicted in January last year for murdering Sean Joel Pollard on March 18, 2008.

According to the evidence, led at Maraj’s trial, Maraj was allegedly having an argument with Pollard’s common-law wife Natalie Nurse, another cousin and Pollard when Maraj stabbed Pollard in the left side of his abdomen.

However, Maraj contented that he was attacked by Nurse and Pollard and his other cousin joined with her. He also claimed that the knife was Pollard’s.

Although he claimed that Pollard lunged at him and he managed to disarm him before stabbing him, the scenario he described was challenged by the pathologist Hughvon Des Vignes, who performed the autopsy on Pollard’s body and described the claim as impossible.

In their judgment, the appeal panel ruled as his trial was prejudiced by the fact that the jury was not properly advised to consider than he may have been acting in self-defence.

They also said that the judge invited the jury to improperly consider the fact that he was arrested by police almost two years after Pollard’s death.

They also considered whether the jury would have come to the same verdict even without the errors and said no.

Maraj was represented by Keith Scotland, Raphael Morgan and Shawn Morris while Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Tricia Hudlin-Cooper appeared for the State.