By MIRANDA LA ROSE Saturday, December 29 2012
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DEAD: Theodore Guerra SC...
CONDOLENCES and tributes were pouring in yesterday within the legal fraternity on the death of well-known and highly respected criminal defence lawyer Senior Counsel (SC) Theodore Roosevelt Guerra who died at about nine o’clock yesterday morning at the High Dependency Unit of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) in Mt Hope. He was 80.
Tributes were led by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan who in a press release said throughout his long, colourful and successful carrer, Guerra never hesitated to advance his legal expertise to those who needed it, no matter their financial circumstances.
“His legacy and career were heavily punctuated by his frequent pro bono (without fees) appearances in court. The records would show he did hundreds of cases pro bono. Furthermore, he was a regular volunteer for Legal Aid work which means his demise has left an immense void in the legal profession” and the Attorney General asks that members of the legal profession mark his passing by undertaking more pro bono cases in future.
“Indeed, the Attorney General hopes that such would be the New Year resolution for each attorney and that each attorney would undertake at least one pro bono case in 2013, as Mr Guerra demonstrated such service to the poor and downtrodden lies at the very heart of the legal profession,” Ramlogan said in his release.
Pamela Elder SC, who trained under Guerra and is a partner in the law firm Guerra, Elder and Associates, said the country has lost a “giant in the legal profession.”
“This it not only a tremendous loss to his family and chambers but also the entire legal profession. He was loved, admired and respected by all who met him and knew him. He was a warrior in the courts.
“He trained many persons. Gave of his time freely assisting those without the means to secure his services. He worked tirelessly in his community and was an avid cricket fan and pan fanatic. Theodore Roosevelt Guerra was the lawyer’s lawyer. It was a pleasure to have trained under him and worked with him. It was a joy to see him stroll majestically in the court. He had an aura, a charisma and he had charm.
“He could seduce you with his words. Many a time, you would see the women on a jury look at him with glazed eyes. And many a policeman would tremble when in the witness box facing his cross examination. He was giant among men,” Elder said.
Born on December 23, 1932, Guerra who was a former policeman successfully pursued his dream of practising law, being admitted as a barrister into the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn on November 15, 1957.
He was called to the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago on March 3, 1960, where over time he distinguished himself and was awarded silk (SC) later becoming joint head of the prestigious Criminal Chambers of Guerra, Elder & Associates in Woodbrook. Guerra was also called to the Bar of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Some of his more notable cases included:
*Prosecution of sedition and mutiny matters arising from the 1970 insurrection;
*Defence of former Commissioner of Police Randolph Burroughs
*Prosecution of Dole Chadee and his gang
*Prosecution of the treason matter against Abu Bakr and the Jamaat al Muslimeen. The Judiciary in a statement said, “it was with great sadness that Chief Justice Ivor Archie learnt of Guerra’s passing.”
Archie extended, “deep condolences to his family in particular and the legal fraternity in general” on behalf of the judiciary.
“Mr Guerra could be regarded justifiably as a stalwart of the criminal bar with a career spanning more than four decades,” the Judiciary said. “He was a powerful and passionate advocate whether his role was that of defence attorney or of prosecutor.”
Guerra’s performance at the bar, the Judiciary said, “was distinguished by many high profile cases, including trials arising out of the events surrounding the 1970 State of Emergency in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Guerra was a member of the prosecution team led by Senior Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips which found the instigators of the 1970 mutiny at the Teteron Barracks guilty of mutiny. However, the mutineers, faced with the hangman’s noose, got off through a “condonation” provision in the laws which provided for condonation by commander. In this case the commander had condoned the unlawful action the mutineers had committed and the ex-soldiers were set free.
Throughout his career, Guerra has prosecuted and faced the prosecution. He would also be remembered for his role in the 1996 conviction of Nankissoon Boodram aka Dole Chadee and eight other men for the brutal 1994 murder of four members of a Williamsville family. He was then the Director of Public Prosecutions, and a member of the prosecution team led by Queen’s Counsel Timothy Cassel.
With Mr Guerra’s passing, the judiciary said, “the legal profession records the loss of one of its most experienced champions.”
Guerra’s colleague and good friend Israel Khan SC, said his death is a “great loss” to the legal fraternity. Guerra, Khan said, “was the most experienced criminal lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago, if not the entire Caribbean. He was always willing to assist young lawyers. You could rest assured that if he was in court and a young lawyer was going astray or doing something wrong, that particular lawyer will be immediately corrected.”
Guerra saw his ups and downs. A murder case in January 26, 2010 in which he was defence counsel was aborted when he took bereavement leave after one of his sons committed suicide.
In November 2010, where he was among five lawyers honoured for 50 years of outstanding service to the legal profession, it was said he came from humble beginnings and used his practice to assist the poor and disadvantaged in Laventille, John John, Carenage and other depressed areas.
At that function Guerra said: “If someone were to ask me what was my greatest achievement in law, I would say it was seeing the trees and flowers I planted blossoming into fruitfulness.” Funeral arrangements have been tentatively set for next Monday.