Trinidad: Verdict delivered in first Judge-only murder trial

Freedom: Kwasi Forde leaves a free man, 14 years after being arrested and charged.

(Trinidad Express) The first judge alone trial in Trinidad yesterday morning ended with a not guilty verdict.

After outlining the reasons in a written verdict judgment, Justice Gillian Lucky told Kwasi Forde that he was not guilty of the 14-year-old murder and he was free to go.

Forde was charged with felony murder on the principle of joint enterprise after Gerald Bocus was shot and killed at Cover Girls Bar at Carib Street, San Fernando on October 10 2005.

Forde opted for the judge alone trial, days after the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Act 2017 became law.

The State’s case led by attorney Trevor Jones, alleged that Forde was one of four men involved in the robbery at the bar when Bocas was killed. Forde was identified by Kerrol Green who was a patron at the bar, as being one of the gun-toting men that night.

Over a three-day period, the prosecution called seven witnesses who gave their evidence and were also cross-examined by defence attorney Larry Williams. Statements from State witnesses were also read into evidence.

Forde brought an alibi in the form of his mother in his defence. She said he was at home at the time of the shooting. He also presented a case of mistaken identity and challenged the conduct of the identification parade at the police station.

In giving the verdict Lucky said she did not believe the alibi but she also said Green was an honest but mistaken witness.Judge: Swifter but no compromise

After the not guilty verdict Lucky said the Chief Justice has implemented several measures toward the criminal law backlog and already there are signs of progress, not limited to this case.

She said, “I make it clear that judge alone trials are not meant, I repeat, not meant to be a panacea for the criminal law case backlog. There are several initiatives – status hearings, the implementation and active and robust implementation of the criminal procedure rules, the individual calendaring of judges -which in this case Mr Williams and Mr Jones you all recognize enabled this matter to be deal with in a timely fashion. There are those who may be concerned, is it that there is swift justice but the expediency means some compromise of justice, and I say a resounding and emphatic no. Justice will never be compromised but all must be done to ensure that justice is seen and manifestly seen to be done.”

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