A High Court judge was yesterday forced to abort the trial of two men accused of murder after the State’s main witness gave prejudicial evidence in the case, which prompted strong outbursts and screaming from the accused men.
It is the second time the case against the men was aborted and a retrial ordered.
In taking the decision during a hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Justice Hayden St Clair Douglas discharged the 12-member jury before him and ordered a retrial for Colin “Mouse” Skinner and Abby Johnson.
Skinner and Johnson were before St Clair-Douglas charged with murdering Colin George at Quarry Street, Diego Martin, on November 23, 2005.
The trial began last month and the State’s main witness made the prejudicial statements while being cross-examined in front of the jury on Monday.
State prosecutors then made the application to abort the trial, which was almost completed at the time.
In his decision, St Clair-Douglas suggested that the statements would make it impossible for the jury to independently assess the evidence in the case.
“It cannot be said that any verdict they would deliver would be unbiased,” he said.
St Clair-Douglas also ordered that the witness’s name and details over the statements he made not be published as the information may potentially prejudice the duo’s eventual retrial.
The decision did not sit well with Skinner and Johnson, who both immediately began screaming their thoughts at St Clair-Douglas.
“You don’t care about my family. This is unjust,” Johnson said.
“So I guilty then? Better I just plead guilty here and just make everyone happy,” Skinner said.
Stating that he and Johnson have been on remand for the past 14 years, Skinner noted that this was the second time their trial was aborted, as a similar situation took place during their first trial, almost a decade ago.
Even as St Clair-Douglas and their attorneys attempted to pacify them, they continued to berate the decision and the witness.
“So we have to wait another ten years for a trial? Better I just plead guilty,” a defiant Skinner said.
St Clair-Douglas eventually decided to ask police officers stationed in the courtroom to remove the duo and return them to the holding cells in the basement of the building.
The move sparked outrage from a group of their relatives, who were seated at the back of the court.
“That is my son. My child did not do anything. He was not there,” Johnson’s mother shouted before she too was asked to leave the hearing.
After the ejections, the duo’s lawyers apologised to St Clair-Douglas and asked him to help facilitate a speedy retrial.
St Clair-Douglas agreed to provide notes of what transpired in the trial but suggested that request for another trial date, later this year, should be made to the High Court Registrar.
Skinner was represented by Ian Brooks, while Larry Williams represented Johnson. Prosecutors Hema Sundarsingh and Candace Nanton represented the State.