Minutes after he upheld no-case submissions in the trial for the murder of Dairy Bar security guard Noel Jones, Justice William Ramlal lambasted investigators for their incompetence and negligence.
“I am not attacking the entire police force,” Justice Ramlal clarified yesterday. “I am saying that the investigators in this particular case displayed what can be described as pure incompetence and nothing else.”
Defence Attorney Bernard De Santos made no-case submissions on behalf of his client Seon Yaw. It had been alleged that Yaw murdered the security guard between December 4 and 5, 2004. However, Yaw’s attorney contended that the identification evidence presented by the prosecution team was weak. Lead Prosecutor Judith Gildharie-Mursalin responded to the submission made by De Santos.
After a short adjournment Justice Ramlal returned to the courtroom with his decision. He ruled that due to identification evidence led by the prosecution which was weak, tenuous and which made it alarmingly possible that it could have been a case of mistaken identity the court would uphold no-case submissions made by the defence.
The prosecution’s identification evidence, the judge explained, is based on the testimony of its main witness. In her testimony the witness clearly said that the man standing behind her on the day was not 5’ 10” which is Yaw’s height. Justice Ramlal stated that the witness showed the court what an inch was and testified that the man standing behind her that day was about 5’ 3”.
Further, the judge said, during the trial the prosecution team led no evidence from the identification parade which was conducted shortly after Jones’ murder. It was during the cross-examination of a witness, Justice Ramlal said, that certain important qualities of the identification parade were highlighted.
The suspect in the Dairy Bar murder reportedly had a birthmark, scar or patch over the right eye. Yaw, the judge explained, was the only person on that identification parade with a birthmark, scar or patch over the right eye. So even if Yaw was not the person who committed the offence he would have still been chosen over the rest on parade because of the unique feature over the right eye.
It was further noted by Justice Ramlal that at the time of the incident the witness was only 12 years old. Therefore, there would be some difference between her height and the suspect’s height between then and now. However, no evidence was led by either the defence or the prosecution to address this point.
The witness’ testimony, the judge continued, was unreliable since there were certain differences in the stories she told in the High Court and during the Preliminary Inquiry at the Magistrate’s Court.
It was based on these factors that the court upheld the no-case submissions. The jury was subsequently directed to return a formal unanimous verdict of not guilty.
“I don’t know what is happening,” Justice Ramlal said. “The prosecution cases are falling apart… and poor police investigation is to be blamed for this.”
There appears to be a major problem with how police process evidence at crime scenes, Justice Ramlal said. In this modern day where everything is digital and technology is available to enhance and make certain tasks easier, the judge stated, it is simply ridiculous that police are not doing a better job.
In Jones’ case another person present during the 2004 incident would have been a better witness to use in identifying the suspect. However, this very important bit of information was overlooked by police.
“The prosecution team cannot be blamed for these lapses… they can only work with the evidence given to them by police,” the judge said further adding, “The court can only act on the evidence before it… the police have to learn to do their job properly… again I am making it clear that I am not attacking anyone but I am pointing out that there is a serious problem and it needs to be addressed.”
The judge, in a brief address to Yaw, advised him that he has been given a new lease on life and he should use it. After spending almost six years in prison Yaw is now a free man again.
“When you are out there people will say things,” Justice Ramlal told Yaw, “and you know what sort of things they will say but you will have to ignore. The records reflect that you don’t have much formal education and maybe you should concentrate on improving yourself in this area… but keep in mind you have another chance at life and it will do you good to keep your peace.”