– ‘Picture Boy’ retrial underway; Neesa Gopaul murder trial “on hold”
The October session of the Demerara Criminal Assizes commenced yesterday with the customary ceremonial parade
which was held outside the Georgetown Supreme Court.
A total of 226 cases are listed to be heard before Justice Navindra Singh, Justice Brassington Reynolds and Madam Justice Dawn Gregory.
A number of prominent cases are listed to be presented during this session of the Demerara Criminal Assizes. These include that of Collin Jones, Randy Mars, Jahfar Simpson, David Anthony Watson and Basil Morgan, who were jointly charged for setting fire to a public building, and the case against party promoter Colin Mack for the rape, assault and forcible abduction of a female. Also listed for trial is the case against Cyon Collier, also known as ‘Picture Boy’. Collier is facing a retrial for the murder of Non Pareil businessman, Chandrapaul Persaud called ‘Kero Man.’
His trial got underway at the High Court yesterday before Justice Dawn Gregory and a mixed twelve-member jury. Collier was ordered to face a retrial in the matter after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the matter in November 2012.
Another matter which is receiving the attention of the court is the case against Dellon Gordon called ‘Popcorn’. Gordon was indicted for the murder of his girlfriend Natasha Johnson. Johnson was reportedly set ablaze at the couple’s home in Plaisance Squatting Area, East Coast Demerara on July 11, 2011.
Meanwhile, the eagerly anticipated trial of Bibi Shareema Gopaul and Jarvis Small, the duo who had been arraigned for the murder of sixteen year-old Queen’s College student, Neesa Lalita Gopaul, is listed to be presented before Justice Navindra Singh in the October 2014 Criminal Assizes, but the matter has been put on hold to accommodate six other trials.
On October 2, 2010 Gopaul’s disfigured corpse was found stuffed in a large suitcase, dumped into the Madewini Creek, Linden/Soesdyke Highway with a length of rope wrapped around the body. The girl’s mother (Bibi Shareema Gopaul) and Small, her mom’s gym instructor and lover, were subsequently arrested and charged for her murder.
An official attached to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s Chambers explained that the six (6) other murder trials to be heard before Justice Singh include a matter involving three (3) accused, which occurred in 2007, and another, involving four (4) accused, which occurred in 2008.
It was also noted by the official that one of the defence attorneys retained to represent the two accused in the Gopaul murder trial was already engaged in another trial which commenced yesterday. The official also noted that the Gopaul trial is expected to be very lengthy since it involves twenty-six (26) witnesses.
During the last session, a total of 242 cases were listed to be heard, but only 49 matters were disposed of.
The June Demerara Criminal Assizes commenced with Justices Singh and Gregory as well as Justice William Ramlal, sitting during the month of June alone.
In July, five judges – Justice Franklyn Holder, Justice James Bovell-Drakes, Madam Justice Diana lnsanally, Justice Naresh Harnanan and Justice Rishi Persaud presided over criminal matters, but only Justice Holder and Justice Insanally continued during the month of September, bringing the Assizes to an end.
It was noted that 17 sexual offences cases were dealt with by Justices Ramlal, Bovell-Drakes and Persaud.
There were a number of cases of rape, buggery, indecent assault and incest. However, except for one matter where the accused pleaded guilty, another where there was a not guilty verdict, and one more where the accused asked for time to present his defence, the other sexual offences matters were discontinued, mainly because the victims had migrated or had refused to testify.
In addition, the High Court dealt with other offences such as murder.
In relation to murder, there were four convictions, seven not guilty verdicts, one retrial and two hung jury verdicts. In one of the matters, the accused was acquitted by Justice William Ramlal after the jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict. However, the State has since appealed this decision. In the other two matters, the accused were acquitted after the jury returned unanimous verdicts of not guilty.
Justice Singh completed two murder cases. In one matter, the accused was acquitted after the jury returned a verdict of not guilty while in the other matter, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict and the accused was sentenced to 57 years’ imprisonment.
Justice Gregory completed three murder matters. In one of these cases, the accused was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment after the jury unanimously found him guilty on the lesser count of Manslaughter. The accused in two other murder trials both pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of Manslaughter and were sentenced to 20 and 15 years’ imprisonment respectively.
Justice Insanally disposed of four murder matters. The accused in one of these four matters was further remanded to prison to await a retrial after the jury failed to reach an unanimous verdict while Justice Franklyn Holder also completed two murder matters.
In the first matter, the judge withdrew the case from the jury and consequently directed them to return a formal verdict of not guilty. The accused in the other murder matter was acquitted after the jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty.
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