Is he really guilty?
When Hafiz Hussein’s lawyer advised him to plead guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter, he refused since he was so convinced that he would have been acquitted of murder.
Maybe if he had taken the advice of his attorney he might have been a free man today. For 17 years he has been incarcerated, waiting for his date with the hangman.
But Hussein still harbours the thought that someday in the near future he will be exonerated for a crime he maintains he did not commit.
We had looked at some aspects of the case commencing with his arrest and the preliminary inquiry into the murder of Aubrey Ramsammy called Arnold.
The actual High Court trial presented some food for thought.
Justice Claudette Singh presided over the trial and from the outset it was evident that the initial statements of the main witnesses would have been a bone of contention.
In the first place, it was noted that there was some alteration of the testimony presented at the preliminary inquiry to that given in the High Court.
This was highlighted by the defence.
The Magistrate who presided at the PI was called to testify that he had offered one of the witnesses the chance to alter her testimony and that she refused.
One of the main witnesses had claimed that she recognised Hussein who was in the bedroom with the victim. However, another witness testified that the room was dark and she could not see anyone.
During the trial the witnesses had also claimed that they never gave police any statement that they saw the accused or any of the accused until September 9 although the suspects were picked up since September 1, giving rise to speculation over the time it took to positively identify the suspects.
Although the witnesses were briefed, they appeared to be conflicting in their evidence, leading many to suspect that they were being schooled in what to say.
Again the question of the police occurrence book and station diary was raised and again no one could give an account of where they were.
Hussein believes that the two pieces of evidence were vital to his case but to the court it apparently did not matter.
Although Hussein’s attorney made no case submissions, the jury was asked to come up with a verdict.
Initially they were not unanimous and were told to deliberate further.
During this period, Hussein was hopeful.
But then unknown to the entire court, strange allegations began to surface.
Boy Blue, a prominent villager who had followed the proceedings from the inception, is convinced that there were some underhand dealings that led to the eventual decision of the court.
According to him, an official of the court informed the family of the deceased that the accused may walk free since the case was not strong.
“They begged him to do whatever he could.”
He said that he was privy to what appeared to be a financial deal to get the jurors to return a formal verdict of guilty against all of the accused.
He claimed that he subsequently pointed this out to the then Chancellor of the Judiciary, Cecil Kennard, who according to him, almost collapsed.
After the verdict, the trial judge handed down her sentence the following day.
Hussein, along with another accused, was sentenced to death while two other accused received prison terms.
The verdict and subsequent sentences, especially the death penalty, shocked many residents of the Black Bush Polder community.
There was great concern over the fate of Hafiz Hussein, with many villagers still believing that he was innocent.
“Hussein is not dat type. All awe ah village man; we know he good. Dem man does hustle; dey nah gat time fuh rob people. When police hold dem man, all body shock. Oh me momma!” exclaimed one Sudama, a Mibicuri businessman.
“Dem man get innocent jail and is like Peter pay fuh Paul,” he said, adding that he was one of more than 100 villagers who had signed a petition against Hussein’s conviction.
It is not often that villagers from a small community who would have gone through an ordeal similar to the events of August 31, 1993 and would be so vehement in their support for a man accused of perpetrating the act.
Following the handing down of the sentences, there was loud wailing in the court and it grew louder when Hussein was asked if he had anything to say.
All he could do was repeat what he was saying from the inception, “I am innocent. I know nothing about the crime.”
Hussein knew there and then that his family had been permanently destroyed.
“I had to tell my wife to go ahead with her life,” he said.
But for his three children, he was still hopeful that they will see their father a free man again. After all, he still had the option of appeal.
However, obviously, it is necessary to examine the judge’s report on the case.
(To be continued)