Six men freed of murder after 14 years in Trinidad jail


(Trinidad Guardian) After spending 14 years in prison, six men have been freed of murdering a man from East Dry River, Port-of-Spain.

Victor “Barry” Alphonso, Marlon “Simo” Seymour, Marvin “Menace” Agard, Frankie “Fishiee” Bartholomew, Darryl “Chinee” Wade, and Randy “Plopee” St Rose were found not guilty of murder at the end of the judge-alone trial before Justice Devan Rampersad at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday.

The men were accused of murdering 23-year-old Shivon “Tupac” Lewis, of Lodge Place, on April 12, 2009.

Lewis was attending a wake at his girlfriend’s home in Chinapoo Village, Morvant, when he was shot and killed.

In the trial, prosecutors relied on the evidence of the State’s main witness Adrian Johnson, who did not witness the murder but claimed to have been present when the six men were planning it.

Johnson gave a series of sworn statements to police and testified during the preliminary inquiry in the case before passing away in June 2014.

Prosecutors were permitted to use Johnson’s deposition from the preliminary inquiry in the group’s eventual trial before Justice Rampersad.

After prosecutors closed their case against the men, their defence attorneys made no-case submissions in which they challenged the reliability of Johnson’s evidence.

Although the no-case submissions were eventually overruled by Justice Rampersad, he essentially upheld the claims made by the men’s defence attorneys over Johnson as he acquitted them.

Justice Rampersad noted that Johnson’s evidence was purely circumstantial and not corroborated by any other evidence.

Noting that Johnson only came forward to the police almost two months after Lewis was killed, Justice Rampersad stated he had a strong motive to lie as in one of his statements to the police, he admitted to implicating them after a disagreement and hoped to be placed in witness protection.

Justice Rampersad pointed to numerous inconsistencies in Johnson’s statements as he ruled that he could not rely on his claims to convict the men.

In August 2012, Alphonso filed a lawsuit over being denied permission to leave prison to attend the funeral of his murdered 12-year-old son, Kareem.

His case was partially upheld as he was granted a private viewing of his son’s body but not allowed to attend the funeral at the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen’s headquarters at Mucurapo Road in St James.

As part of his decision, Justice Rampersad commended the attorneys in the case for completing the trial before the Judiciary goes on its annual vacation on Monday.

Alphonso was represented by Alexia Romero and Amira Khan, while Khan appeared alongside Wayne Sturge for Bartholomew. Sturge and Adaphia Trancoso-Ribeiro, of the Public Defenders’ Department, represented Wade.

Seymour was represented by Danielle Rampersad and Michael Modeste, while Mario Merritt and Randall Raphael represented Agard. St Rose was represented by Karuna Bisramsingh and Kameika Peters. The case was prosecuted by Anju Bhola-Mc Quan and Josanne Forrester.

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