By Oliceia Tinnie
Zamani Archibald, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) rank charged with causing the death of a pensioner who was struck down along the Soesdyke Public Road, yesterday claimed that the deceased rode into the path of the truck he was driving at the time.
Archibald yesterday opted to give the court unsworn evidence after he was called upon by Georgetown magistrate Judy Latchman to lead a defence to the charge that he drove a motor pickup, DFB 1566, on March 11, 2017, on the Soesdyke Public Road in a manner dangerous to the public, thereby causing the death of Harry Persaud.
He proceeded to tell the court that on March 11 he was on his way to Timehri, travelling along the Soesdyke Highway, when he saw a pedal cyclist come out of the street and turn in the same direction towards Timehri. Archibald noted that he began to approach the pedal cyclist, when the rider attempted to cross the road.
According to Archibald, he changed gears and blew his horn, which caused the pedal cyclist to pull back into the corner. The accused stated that he continued driving and was almost past the pedal cyclist when the rider once again swerved to get to the other side of the road. As a result, he said he veered right in an attempt to avoid hitting the cyclist. However, they connected.
Archibald told the court that he subsequently stopped the vehicle and saw the cyclist and a little girl laying on the road.
The defendant stated that it was then that he told the other soldiers who were travelling with him that they could not “bubble” and that they had to take the persons to the hospital. At the hospital, he stated that one soldier took the little girl inside and gave her to the doctor, while he and another soldier out the cyclist on a trolley and he was taken into the hospital.
About half an hour later, the accused noted, he was told that the cyclist had died.
He added that he was then taken from the hospital by the police to Madewini Outpost, where they took photographs of the vehicle and the cycle. Statements were then taken from him and the other soldiers and he was then taken to mark the scene of the accident. While at the scene, Archibald stated that he told the officers that the accident happened so fast that he was unable to remember exactly where they stopped or where the collision occurred.
However, the accused noted that the police told him that he had to mark somewhere, which caused him to mark the area near the Rubis Gas Station.
Archibald stated that he was later placed on three months’ close arrest and was later transferred back to his base in July. He said he worked for a week and then the police visited and he was told he was needed at the station.
Subsequent to Archibald’s testimony, his attorney Dexter Todd told the court that they would be calling four witnesses.
Lance Corporal 21937 Teddy Sookram and Sergeant 19466 Sherwin Harry were the first two GDF officers to testify on behalf of Archibald.
Both men related accounts similar to the one Archibald gave. Sookram stated that he was seated in the back of the truck, between two other soldiers, while Harry was seated in the front passenger’s side of the truck.
Under cross-examination by Police Prosecutor Shawn Gonsalves, Sookram stated that when he first heard the defendant blow his horn, he looked up from his phone and saw the pedestrian swerve onto the road.
Sookram, under further cross-examination, told the court that he could not clearly state what happened before the pedestrian swerved because his head was down.
Meanwhile, Harry stated that while he was seated in the front passenger’s seat of the truck, he was slouched, but had a view of the road. He further noted that it was after the accused honked his horn that he first saw the pedal cyclist.
He was later cross-examined by the prosecutor, who informed him that he never stated in his statement to police that the pedal cyclist swerved twice. As a result, prosecutor Gonsalves then told him that he was a witness of convenience.
Magistrate Latchman then adjourned the matter until today’s date, when the two other GDF officers are to testify.