The group of men accused of murdering former Independent Senator Dana Seetahal, SC, have been officially committed to stand trial for the crime.
Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno brought the protracted preliminary inquiry in the case to an end as she ruled that State prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to make out a prima facie case against the men.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will now have to file indictments against the men before the case is put on the High Court cause list of cases awaiting trial.
During successive hearings on Wednesday and yesterday, Cedeno heard the testimony of acting Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan, who was called as a defence witness by Garth Wiseman, an accused man who was on remand for an unrelated murder when Seetahal was killed.
Wiseman had identified another defence witness but his attorneys eventually chose to not pursue that witnesses’ testimony. Devaughn Cummings had also identified two witnesses but subsequently changed his mind.
As a formality in the hearing, Cedeno granted alleged gang leader Rajaee Ali $300,000 bail on the gang charge. However, Ali cannot access the bail as he and his co-accused will remain on remand until the end of the eventual trial of the case before a Judge and jury in the High Court.
Seetahal was shot dead behind the wheel of her SUV while driving 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 effectively reinstated the charges for being members of a gang.
As Ector was murdered in July 2018, only Peters was rearrested and recharged with the offence.
The reinstated charges are now set to go before Magistrate Sarah De Silva, with the first hearing set for July 14.
Stephan Cummings was initially charged for the murder but in December 2017, he was made a State witness after he agreed to testify against his former friends. The charge was discontinued against him and he was instead charged with conspiring to murder Seetahal.
Almost two weeks ago, Cedeno dismissed a series of no case submissions from the accused men, who claimed that the evidence presented in the inquiry was insufficient to warrant the charges.
The accused persons are being represented by Mario Merritt, Randall Raphael, Karunaa Bisramsingh, and Roshan Tota-Maharaj. Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson and Assistant DPP George Busby are prosecuting. Acting Superintendent Seemungal Rampersad of the Homicide Bureau of Investigation is the complainant in the case.