Three men from Sea Lots were yesterday acquitted of murdering a man during a robbery in Cocorite in 2010.
After spending eight years on remand, Sherwin Alexander, 32, Richard “Bulls” Thomas, 36, and 23-year-old Sean Villafana walked out the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain as free men after a jury found them not guilty of murdering 24-year-old Amiel George on January 18, 2010. They were also acquitted of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Their friends—Reinaldo Marcano, 36, Raymond Birot, 45, Kurt Serrette, 36, Terrence “Trix” David, 36, Keston Morris, 29, Gerard Hepburn, 26, Keon “Taliban” Lawrence, 26, Joel “Snake Roberts, 27, and 26-year-old Devon Victor—were also charged with the crime, but were freed by High Court judge Devan Rampersad in April.
Rampersad upheld a no case submission as he ruled that there was insufficient evidence linking the nine men to the crime.
However, the trio was not as lucky as Rampersad pointed out that the victim’s blood was found on their clothing when they were arrested shortly after the incident.
As the trial, which began over a year ago, continued before Rampersad, the trio’s legal team raised discrepancies with the State’s evidence against them.
While under cross-examination from defence attorney Mario Merritt, the State’s forensic experts admitted that the blood stains did not corroborate allegations that the three men surrounded George and chopped him. Merritt contended that the stains would be larger and would be in distinct patterns if the State’s case was indeed true.
DNA experts also admitted that the blood on the cutlass that was allegedly found in the maxi-taxi in which the men were travelling, could have been easily transferred to the trio’s clothing through mishandling by police officers and crime scene investigators.
They also admitted that the victim’s DNA (skin particles) were found on the handle of the cutlass.
It took a 12-member jury before Rampersad almost the entire four hour period allotted to them to return with unanimous not guilty verdicts for the men.
The trio’s relatives and friends, many of whom attended all the hearings of the case, were heard celebrating in the courtroom as the verdicts were being delivered by the jury foreman.
“Thank you Jesus,” several of them exclaimed as embraced each other after being ushered out of the court by police officers.
“We always know they were innocent but that is the law,” one female relative said.
Alexander, Thomas and Villafana briefly greeted them before entering a Range Rover SUV that was waiting outside.
The men were also represented by Wayne Sturge, Alexia Romero, Karunaa Bisramsingh and Shanice Edwards. Tricia Hudlin-Cooper prosecuted.
ABOUT THE CASE
The group of men were on trial for murdering 24-year-old Amiel George on January 18, 2010.
George was standing near his home at Harding Place, Cocorite, when he was attacked by a group of men, who robbed him of a gold chain before chopping him several times. While no one witnessed the attack, residents claimed to have seen the men fleeing the scene in a maxi taxi.
A maxi taxi fitting the description was eventually intercepted along Wrightson Road in Port-of-Spain, with the 12 accused inside. The blood-stained cutlass, which was allegedly used in the attack, was recovered inside.
Throughout their preliminary inquiry, the men referred to police officers as the “Dirty Dozen”, repeatedly professed their innocence and frequently protested by banging against the walls of prison transport trucks while being conveyed to and from court.