eA VERDICT of not guilty has been delivered in favour of an Oropouche man who was accused of slitting his neighbour’s throat back in 2007, after the neighbour allegedly attempted to sexually assault him.
The verdict was delivered yesterday by Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds following the conclusion of a judge-alone trial against the former accused, Roger Ragoopath. But even though he has been found not guilty of the crime, Ragoopath remains in prison custody since he is also charged with another offence that is yet to come up for trial.
In delivering the verdict, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said there were “glaring inconsistencies” in the prosecution’s case and, in particular, the evidence of the alleged victim, Ramesh Mungroo.
Ragoopath, of Red Brick Trace, South Oropouche, was accused of slitting Mungroo’s throat on the evening of September 2, 2007, not far from where they both lived. In addition to the wounding charge, he was accused of robbing Mungroo of $80 and a cellular phone.
At the time, Ragoopath, who was represented by attorney Renuka Rambhajan, was just 15 years old.
Justice Ramsumair-Hinds stated that based on the evidence presented at trial, the State did not meet the threshold to convince the court that Ragoopath had indeed committed the crime.
Another person is also currently before the court accused of the same offence. His trial is yet to begin.
“No matter the charge or trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove guilt is part of the common law, and there can be no attempt to whittle it down,” said the judge as she informed Ragoopath he was found not guilty.
The State’s case was that Mungroo was walking along the roadway close to his home when he was attacked and robbed by Ragoopath and another man.
Mungroo survived the incident and was able to inform police of his attackers’ identity, but before the matter went to trial, he died due to unrelated circumstances.
His evidence at the Magistrates’ Court during the preliminary enquiry was tendered and relied upon by the prosecution during the trial.
Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said even though it was permissible in law for the statements and deposition of dead witnesses or victims to be tendered into evidence, there were limitations because of the inability to scrutinise those individuals in cross-examination. The judge added that the case was one where the police prosecution could have marshalled the evidence at the preliminary enquiry with a “great deal more circumspection”.
On the other hand, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said she found Ragoopath’s evidence to be consistent and a lot more reliable than the State’s.
‘Teach him a lesson’
During his testimony, Ragoopath said on the evening of the incident, he was at a play park in the community when Mungroo gave him “something to smoke” and attempted to molest him.
He said he resisted Mungroo’s attempt while Mungroo was in the process of removing his (Ragoopath’s) pants and left the park.
While walking home, Ragoopath said he saw one of his friends and informed him of what had taken place. It was at that point that they both decided to confront Mungroo and “teach him a lesson”.
In his testimony, Ragoopath admitted that his friend and Mungroo had a scuffle and that Mungroo suffered a wound to the neck.
However, he denied he was the one responsible for the injury.
The State contended that after being arrested and questioned in the presence of his mother, Ragoopath told investigators he really did have a knife in his possession that day and that he and (name called) decided “to teach Ramesh a lesson because he like to touch boys and he get he throat cut and we run”.
While under cross-examination by State attorney Maria Lyons-Edwards, Ragoopath insisted that Mungroo attempted to molest him prior to the incident. He denied grabbing Mungroo by the neck or telling police he had a knife in his possession.
Ragoopath said at the time, he had a metal putty knife but referred to it as a “putty paste” and said it was an instrument he used to scale fish. He stated Mungroo “was just looking for something to make up because what he do earlier that day”.
While Ragoopath said he was upset after the incident in the play park, he said he and his friend’s only intention was to “beat up Ramesh” and he had no intention of the situation escalating as far as it did.