Trinidad: Six men freed of Cepep worker’s murder

By DEREK ACHONG

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Former murder accused Chicki Portillo left hugs his mother Lisa Portillo, after he and four others were freed by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby- Earle- Caddle at the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court.
NICOLE DRAYTON

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Six men from Diego Mar­tin, whose pro­tract­ed pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry for mur­der­ing a Cepep work­er had to be restart­ed due to the short-lived ju­di­cial ap­point­ment of for­mer chief mag­is­trate Mar­cia Ay­ers-Cae­sar, have been freed.

Ak­ili Charles, Chic­ki Portel­lo, An­ton Cam­bridge, Ka­reem Gomez, Levi Joseph and Is­rael “Arnold” Lara were dis­charged by Ay­ers-Cae­sar’s suc­ces­sor Chief Mag­is­trate Maria Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle at the end of their sec­ond pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry in the Port-of-Spain Mag­is­trates’ Court, this morn­ing.

The le­gal vic­to­ry was bit­ter­sweet for Cam­bridge as he had to watch as his friends walked out of the cour­t­house and in­to the arms of their elat­ed rel­a­tives, while he was re­mand­ed back in­to cus­tody for a sep­a­rate mur­der.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle up­held a no case sub­mis­sion from the group’s at­tor­neys, who claimed that there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence link­ing them to mur­der­ing Rus­sell An­toine on May 13, 2010.

An­toine, 27, was walk­ing along Up­per Ceme­tery Street, Covi­gne Road, Diego Mar­tin, when he was shot sev­er­al times. An­toine’s friends Mar­cus and Joseph Spring were wound­ed in the in­ci­dent and the group was charged with shoot­ing them with in­tent to cause them griev­ous bod­i­ly harm. The group was al­so freed of the ad­di­tion­al charges.

The group’s case was one of 53 that were af­fect­ed when Ay­ers-Cae­sar de­cid­ed to take up a po­si­tion as a High Court Judge in April 2017.

Two weeks lat­er, Ay­ers-Cae­sar ten­dered her res­ig­na­tion amid furore over the cas­es she left un­fin­ished.

Most of the af­fect­ed per­sons agreed to have their cas­es restart­ed be­fore Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle, who cleared her sched­ule to ex­pe­dite them.

How­ev­er, the group elect­ed to put their case on hold pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of a High Court in­ter­pre­ta­tion law­suit, which sought to de­ter­mine the process to be fol­lowed when a ju­di­cial of­fi­cial leaves of­fice sud­den­ly, as in Ay­ers-Cae­sar’s case.

In Jan­u­ary, Jus­tice Car­ol Gob­in ruled that all of Ay­ers-Cae­sar’s part-heard cas­es would have to be restart­ed. The group’s sec­ond pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry even­tu­al­ly com­menced be­fore Bus­by-Ear­le-Cad­dle in March.

Speak­ing with Guardian Me­dia af­ter the hear­ing, some of the men’s rel­a­tives, who at­tend­ed al­most every hear­ing of their case over the past decade, ex­pressed re­lief over the out­come.

“This should not take 10 years but noth­ing hap­pens be­fore its time,” one rel­a­tive said.

The group was rep­re­sent­ed by Wayne Sturge, Criston J Williams and Danielle Ram­per­sad.

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