The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision in the appeal of five men, each serving 28 years in prison for manslaughter in relation to a case of a San Juan businesswoman, who was kidnapped and killed in 2005.
Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mark Mohammed, and Prakash Moosai reserved their decision after lawyers representing Phillip "The Boss" Boodram, Roger Mootoo, Ricky Singh, Kervin Williams, and Aaron "Arc Eye" Grappie completed their submissions during a virtual hearing yesterday.
Before adjourning their judgment to a date to be fixed, the appeal panel requested additional submissions on whether they should face a retrial if they are eventually successful in their appeal.
The group was initially on trial for the murder of Samdaye Rampersad.
Rampersad was kidnapped by masked men while standing in front of her home in Petit Bourg, San Juan on November 25, 2005.
Her body was found 41 days later in a shallow grave in a cashew field in Carolina Village, Claxton Bay.One of the State’s witnesses, forensic pathologist Hughvon des Vignes, testified that an autopsy of Rampersad's body showed she died of asphyxia and suffocation consistent with being buried alive.
Nine men were initially charged for Rampersad's murder, with three-Vivian Clarke, Steven McGillvery, and Pernell Martin - being convicted on manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison in their first trial in 2009. Another accused, Bobby Sankar, was acquitted during that trial. Last month, the Privy Council upheld McGillvery's appeal but affirmed Clarke and Martin's convictions.
The five remaining accused were put on trial again in 2012 but it ended in a hung jury.
They were eventually convicted during a second retrial which began in 2016 and lasted over a year. The men were each sentenced to 28 years in prison. The group's appeal centres around the testimony of Nigel "Cat" Roderique, who claimed that he was present at a meeting at which the kidnapping was planned, and at Rampersad's eventual death.
Roderique also alleged that Rampersad was kidnapped as he and the men wrongly believed that she was the mother of a man who had owed them money for drugs.
In the appeal, the group's lawyers are claiming that the judge, who presided over their trial, made multiple errors in advising the jury on how to consider the credibility and reliability of Roderique's evidence.They are also claiming that the judge limited their defence attorneys' questions over Roderique being allowed to plead guilty to felony murder in a separate case before he implicated them. Presenting submissions yesterday, British Queen's Counsel Paul Taylor questioned whether the jury had rejected or accepted Roderique's evidence when it found them not guilty of murder and guilty of manslaughter.
"There is no rational basis for the verdict of manslaughter," Taylor said.
The men are also being represented by Edward Fitzgerald, QC, Rajiv Persad, John Heath, Kelston Pope, and Gabriel Hernandez. Travers Sinanan and Tricia Hudlin-Cooper are representing the State.