Abrupt end to Chandra's murder trial
Seeromani, Ramasir walk free
By SUSAN MOHAMMED
THE TRIAL of two persons charged with the murder of Dr Chandra Naraynsingh ended abruptly yesterday when the 12-member jury returned not guilty verdicts, even before defence lawyers could argue a no-case submission.
Housewife Seeromani Maraj-Naraynsingh and San Fernando businessman Elton Ramasir walked out of the San Fernando High Court yesterday morning, having spent 14 months behind bars, for the murder of Chandra Naraynsingh.
Maraj-Naraynsingh, hugging her step-daughter Anamika (Chandra’s daughter) and with her husband, Prof Vijay Naraynsingh, next to her, described the laying of the charge as an unjust act done to her. Ramasir, a Cipero Street car dealer, said his wrongful imprisonment had a political motive.
Maraj-Naraynsingh, with tears rolling down her cheeks, told the media: "They have taken more than a year away from me and my family. And all of which have been wrong. I have been saying this from the beginning. It’s all wrong."
Ramasir, hugged by his wife outside the courthouse, said, "This is wrong. This is wrong. This can only happen in three places in this world — Hollywood, Bollywood and Trinidad. This is wrong. There are innocent people in jail. I am innocent. I never knew the doctor. This is politics!"
Freedom for Maraj-Naraynsingh and Ramasir came around mid-morning yesterday after Justice Herbert Volney upheld a legal submission by defence attorneys that he (judge) had the power to advise the jury to stop the case prematurely if they disbelieved the evidence presented by State.
The State had closed its case on Tuesday after presenting star witness Shawn Parris, the man who shot Chandra, and the complainant, ASP Nadhir Khan, as final witnesses.
Instead of being called to make their defence, however, the accused’s attorneys Karl Hudson Phillips QC and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, presented legal arguments to Volney.
When hearing resumed yesterday, Volney told jurors that they were entitled to say that they wish to have the trial stopped if the State had not proven the guilt of the accused.
Volney said, "At the close of the prosecution, the jury is entitled, depending upon the view held of the evidence led by the prosecution, to form the judgment that the State has not led evidence on which it may convict."
Volney continued, "The jury may in the circumstance at the stage when the case for the State is closed, make the judgment that it wishes to stop the trial for the reason that it cannot, on the evidence led by the State, render a verdict of guilty."
The judge then asked the foreman if they wish to retire.
After 40 minutes inside the jury room, the 12-member panel of six men and six women returned to the courtroom.
The foreman then announced: "We wish to close the case."
Volney then asked, "Is it that you wish to hear anymore evidence?" The foreman replied that he did not.
Seetahal had objected, however, to the submissions, citing authorities that the practice of informing the jurors that they have such an entitlement was no longer a good one.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Volney said he had studied cases overnight and had made up his mind on the course which he should take.
When told they were free to go, Maraj-Naraynsingh walked down the steps of the courthouse to the welcoming sounds of the Hanuman Chaaleesa sang by her fellow devotees of the Kala Kendra. The Hanuman Chaaleesa Hindu religious song, comprised of 40 verses, is sung by Hindus for strength and courage.
Maraj-Naraynsingh touched the feet of her 77-year-old mother, Rajmattee Maraj, and her religious guru Ravi-Ji. She then knelt on the pavement and prayed with her head lifted to the sky. Her husband, vascular surgeon Prof Vijay Naraynsingh, who also spent four months incarcerated when he was charged for Chandra’s killing, commented: "This country is ruled by thugs, and the State supports it. The State supports it! The people of this country have got to come together and fight for what is good. The good can no longer afford to stay silent. The evil is ruling and the good must now win, and will win."
Ramasir's lead defence attorney, Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, described the case as "scandalous and tainted."
Maharaj added, "I think this was a scandalous case. In my career as a lawyer and as an attorney general, I have never come across such a tainted case, a corrupt prosecution case. This case has brought the administration of justice into disrepute. And the whole question which arises in this country is whether prosecutions like these which are tainted and which are corrupt, should ever happen again."
Maraj-Naraynsingh's defence was led by Queen’s Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips, and included attorneys Ravi Rajcoomar, Prakash Ramadhar, and Camini Naraynsingh-Chan. Ramasir appeared with attorney Larry Lalla.
The State presented 19 witnesses and relied heavily on the evidence on its two main witnesses — confessed hitman Shawn Parris and his accomplice Junior Morris. Parris had confessed that he pumped five bullets from a .38 revolver into Chandra in the car park at the Langmore Health Foundation on June 29, 1994. Morris said he was present while the contract was being brokered for the hit and he drove Parris to commit the killing.
Parris pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter — and was sentenced to life-imprisonment by Volney on February 12, 2004. Morris was granted immunity from prosecution for murder by the Director of Public Prosecutions and was placed in a Witness Protection Programme by the State.
Commenting yesterday on Parris’ evidence, Maraj-Naraynsingh said, "When it comes to a child, there is no way I would ever hurt a child. And this man said lots of really horrible things. Anybody who knows me knows me, it couldn’t be true. And most of all, this little one." Hugging 17-year-old Anamika, Chandra’s daughter, Maraj-Naraynsingh said, "She sat in my lap for 11 years and she knows me, she knows me. "
Anamika, said yesterday: "I never had a doubt."
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