Defence objects to DNA witness
By AZARD ALI Wednesday, October 17 2012
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FOREIGN WITNESS: Martin Whittaker, a British DNA expert from LGC Laboratories of England, leaves the San Fernando Magistrates' Court yesterday where ...
THE arrival Monday night of a British DNA (Deoxyribo-
nucleic Acid) expert to testify in the ongoing Daniel Guerra Murder Inquiry, hangs in the balance, following a legal submission yesterday that DNA samples from the Gasparillo schoolboy’s body, were not obtained in accordance with legal regulations.
Martin Whittaker, the DNA expert, arrived at the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court flanked by two bodyguards, at the request of the State, who is prosecuting Ag Cpl Darwin Ghouralal for Guerra’s murder, earlier this year. Just as the State Attorney was about to call Whittaker, who represents LGC Laboratories in the United Kingdom, Sophia Chote SC, objected.
The Senior Counsel then told Acting Chief Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan that the blood sample from Guerra’s body, discovered dumped in a drain in Tarouba Village, San Fernando, was taken by the now disbanded Special Anti Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT).
It therefore tainted the integrity of the sample, Chote said, because the 2012 DNA Act that was proclaimed, mandated how DNA samples are to be obtained, by whom, and where it is to be submitted for analysis.
Eight-year-old Guerra never returned home on February 17 last year, when he was sent to a parlour from his Bedeau Street home, to purchase two Lucozade drinks. His body was discovered two days later in a drain, close to the San Fernando Technical Institute. The prosecution, led by Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Joan Paul Honore, was expected to call Whittaker yesterday to the witness box in the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court, to give evidence of DNA findings of certain blood samples.
Chote is defending Ghouralal in the Preliminary Inquiry hearing. Chote told Rambachan the 2012 Act, mandates that when a blood sample is to be taken for DNA testing, it must be obtained from a vein of the body.
The Act stipulates that a medical doctor must be the person to extract the sample, or a nurse, under the supervision of a doctor.
Further, Chote submitted, the sample must be submitted to a laboratory with international accreditation on DNA testing.
She recalled when SAUTT obtained the sample it was a fundamental breach of the Act, Chote asked Rambachan to consider what the Act mandates, “unless the court was being asked to accept a broad brush approach to the taking of such samples”.
Chote submitted: “The reliance by jurisdictions all over on DNA evidence, is founded on the recognition that this specie of evidence, and the kind of analysis required, must be done in a manner controlled by law. Section Five of the Act, creates a mandate that only a qualified person shall take a sample etc. Paul Honore will reply at 1 pm today, after which Rambachan would rule whether Whittaker would give evidence.