The men accused of assassinating senior counsel and former independent senator Dana Seetahal will more than likely now have to face trial at the High Court.
Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno yesterday shot down arguments made by attorneys representing the men, who sought to convince the court their clients were not the ones responsible for the capital offence.
Instead, the magistrate said she believed the prosecution had presented sufficient and compelling evidence to suggest the accused—former LifeSport co-ordinator Rajaee Ali, two of his brothers and several other men—had a case to answer.
Usually when such a finding is made, the magistrate would read the committal warrant to the accused, allowing them the option to either go into the witness box and give evidence or call witnesses to testify in their defence.
The intent is, if they wish, for the accused to make any last-ditch effort to convince the magistrate they did not commit the crime.
Instead, after Cedeno dismissed the no-case submissions yesterday, criminal defence attorney Mario Merritt asked for an adjournment of the matter. He explained that he did not previously have the opportunity to consult with his clients as to whether they intended to call witnesses or testify on their own behalf.
The magistrate granted the request and adjourned the enquiry to next Wednesday.
On that day, Merritt and the other defence attorneys will inform the magistrate as to whether evidence on behalf of the defence will be led.
Accused of murdering Seetahal are Ali, his brothers Hamid and Ishmael Ali, Devaughn Cummings, Ricardo Stewart, Earl Richards, Gareth Wiseman, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales and Roget Boucher.
Another man, Stephan Cummings, who was charged with Seetahal’s murder, was discharged of the criminal offence by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in December of 2017. In that instance, DPP Roger Gaspard, SC, exercised his power under Section 90(c) of the Constitution to have the charge dismissed and a lesser charge of conspiracy to murder be laid.
In exchange for the lesser charge, Cummings has since become the State’s main witness.
Seetahal was shot dead on the morning of May 4, 2014, along Hamilton Holder Street in Woodbrook. Minutes earlier, she had left the Ma Pau casino on Ariapita Avenue and was returning to her One Woodbrook Place home, when a vehicle blocked her path and its occupants killed her while she was seated in her vehicle.