The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has closed the State’s case in the preliminary inquiry of ten men charged with the murder of former Independent Senator Dana Seetahal, SC.
The DPP’s Office closed its case before Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno after the last of its over 90 witnesses completed their testimonies and cross-examinations at the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court, last Friday.
Cedeno will now have to consider a series of no case applications from the accused men, which will challenge whether there is sufficient evidence against them.
Cedeno may choose to dismiss the charge against some or all of the men. However, if applications are refused, Cedeno will then call on the accused men to present their defence witnesses.
After the process is completed, Cedeno will decide whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.
Once the preliminary inquiry is committed and the men are committed to stand trial, the DPP’s Office will then have to file the indictment for the case to be listed on the High Court’s backlogged trial list.
Seetahal was shot dead while driving along Hamilton Holder Street in Woodbrook on May 4, 2014.
In September 2015, Rajaee Ali, his brothers Ishmael and Hamid, Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales, Roget Boucher, Gareth Wiseman, and Stephan Cummings were charged with the murder.
David Ector, Deon Peters and Ali’s wife Stacy Griffith, were charged with being members of a gang but not the murder.
Ector, Peters, Griffith, and the men charged with the murder were freed of the gang charge at a preliminary stage due to blunder by the DPP’s Office.
The charges were laid indictably (heard and determined by a High Court Judge and jury after a preliminary inquiry) as opposed to summarily (heard and determined by a magistrate) due to a blunder by the DPP’s Office.
Gang charges are heard summarily for first-time offenders and indictably for repeat offenders.
The DPP’s Office has since appealed Cedeno’s decision with the Court of Appeal expected to deliver its judgement in the case, early next year.
Although Ector and Peters were initially set free, Griffith remained a part of the case as she is facing an additional charge for benefiting from the gang’s activity, which was correctly laid by the DPP’s Office.
In December 2017, the DPP’s Office discontinued the murder charge against Cummings, made him a State witness and laid one against him for conspiring to murder Seetahal.
In May, last year, Ector was arrested after scaling the perimeter fence at the Piarco International Airport.
Ector allegedly claimed that he was attempting to evade a group of men who were attempting to kill him.
Two months later, Ector was murdered at his Carapo home.
The inquiry is scheduled to come up for hearing on January 3.