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Cabinet to approve fees of lawyers for the accused

By JADA LOUTOO Wednesday, November 7 2012

click on pic to zoom in
Chaguanas businesswoman, Vindra Naipaul-Coolman...
Chaguanas businesswoman, Vindra Naipaul-Coolman...

A PROPOSED fee structure for public defenders to represent the men accused of the murder of Chaguanas businesswoman, Vindra Naipaul-Coolman, is expected to be taken to Cabinet as early as next week for approval.

If approved by the Cabinet, some ten of the men who are yet to secure legal representation will have attorneys appointed by the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority to represent them at their trial, which is expected to begin in the new year.

At a status hearing before trial judge, Justice Mark Mohammed yesterday, the authority’s director Chaitram Sinanan gave an update on negotiations between attorneys, the authority and Justice Minister, Christlyn Moore.

He said at least seven attorneys have agreed to the proposed fee structure, and all that was necessary was Cabinet’s approval before appointments are made.

With this latest development, Mohammed informed the men, two of whom have already retained lawyers privately, that they were making progress, albeit slowly.

The judge has also indicated that he will be holding discussions with senior Judiciary personnel regarding accommodation for the trial, as it has been determined by both attorneys and security personnel that the courtrooms at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain would be inadequate in terms of space consideration.

Mohammed had raised the possibility of having the trial heard in Chaguaramas, which was used in 1996 for the Dole Chadee murder trial. However, he was informed by special prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, that the court in Western Trinidad was in a state of disrepair.

In response to complaints by one of the accused men of the competency of attorneys to be appointed by the Legal Aid Authority since the State has retained three Senior Counsel to prosecute, the authority’s director said these fears were unfounded, because the majority of attorneys who have indicated their willingness to accept the briefs, had over 18 years practice at the criminal bar.

He assured that briefs are given to lawyers who were fully competent in capital matters, and were experienced in case law.

Mohammed has also again discouraged the accused men who have indicated a willingness to represent themselves, saying the case involves complex legal and scientific issues, for which they will need proper legal representation.

The accused — Shervon Peters, Keida Garcia, Marlon and Earl Trimmingham, Ronald Armstrong, Antonio Charles, Joel Fraiser, Lyndon James, Allan Martins, Devon Peters, Anthony Dwayne Gloster, Jamille Garcia and Rafael Williams, were all charged with the December, 2006 kidnapping and subsequent murder of Naipaul-Coolman.

The start of the trial had been delayed because of the issue of retainer fees. Attorneys registered by the Legal Aid Board were said to be reluctant to accept appointments for lengthy trials, because of the paltry retainer fees.

Senior Counsels Israel Khan, Gilbert Peterson and Dana Seetahal have been retained to prosecute the trial.

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