Tuesday, September 17, 2019

T&T Magistrate refuses to step down

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Trinidad Express:–  SENIOR Magistrate Indrani Cedeno has dismissed an application that was made by a defence attorney in the Dana Seetahal murder inquiry for her to step down from further presiding over the matter on the ground of apparent bias.

Cedeno delivered her ruling on the application at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday, saying mere suspicion of apparent bias was not sufficient and that a real suspicion had to be established if she were to recuse herself.

The High Court is being utilised for the hearing of the inquiry during the course of the court’s vacation period.

The recusal application was made by attorney Criston J Williams, who was representing two of the ten accused – alleged gang leader Rajaee Ali and Earl Richards. He made the application after it was brought to light that Magistrate Cedeno had two telephone conversations with one of the prosecutors in the matter, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) George Busby in November of last year and May this year that were not disclosed to the defence.

Those conversations were in relation to a series of threatening WhatsApp messages that a relative of one of the police witnesses in the inquiry, as well as another matter that was before the magistrate, had received.

Seetahal’s assassination was mentioned in one of the messages, however, the source of the message is not known and none of those messages were directed to the magistrate.

It was Williams’ contention that those conversations could paint the magistrate as being biased towards the accused. But in July, Cedeno revealed how the conversations came to take place.

She said on a particular date in November last year, she was at the Tunapuna Magistrates’ Court when she received a message from the clerk of the court that Busby was attempting to contact with her.

The magistrate said she returned Busby’s call before he informed her he was unable to be present in another matter before her that same day which he was prosecuting. During the course of the conversation, Cedeno said Busby made mention of the messages.

She said in May, she again contacted Busby via while he was on vacation and requested that he forward the messages to her for it to be attached to her application for additional State security. The magistrate said she did not see the need to make mention of the conversations to the defence since it was not connection with the Seetahal inquiry, however, she did so anyway during a hearing of the inquiry at the Magistrates’ Court in June. This prompted Williams to make the application.

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