2 Wallerfield men on remand for murder for 20 years seek bail

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TWO men who have each spent two decades on remand on a murder charge will know on Friday if their bail application is successful.

Ogee Tempro and Kevin Patrick are before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds, where they have applied for bail pending the start of their judge-only trial.

The two were charged with the murder of Yip Manin Luk on November 23, 2002.

This will be their second trial after the Court of Appeal ordered a new one, quashing their 2009 conviction, when they were sentenced to hang for the murder.

The State’s case was that the two went to the Santa Rosa residence of Alan Fong and Stephanie Yee Fong to rob the couple and during the robbery, they shot and killed Yip Manin Luk, the Fongs’ employee.

At a virtual hearing on Monday, Tempro’s attorney, Sophia Chote, SC, said it was “unconscionable” and “nothing less than an atrocity” for a man to be imprisoned for 20 years without a resolution of his matter and for him to be waiting for 12 years for his retrial, “pandemic or no pandemic.”

She also said this also did not bode well for the criminal justice system and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

Chote said Tempro has spent half his life on remand and this could possibly be one of the longest periods, if not the longest, any prisoner has spent on remand.

She also referred to medical reports showing Tempro had attempted suicide on two occasions because of his lengthy incarceration. She said he was not pretending to be “mad,” but this was his situation, having been incarcerated for 20 years without bail in inhumane conditions.

“If he was not insistent with his not-guilty plea, he could have chosen to go down the route of asking for an MSI (maximum sentence indication) – as many have done – and would have already served his time,” she said.

She quoted former chief justice Michael de La Bastide on the conditions on remand being starkly different for prisoners there as opposed to those in the convict section.

Chote took issue with a separate indictment being filed by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution for other matters related to the murder, saying it was an abuse. She also said the State had not put forward an objection to bail, but merely advanced concerns, adding that was no evidence or allegation her client would interfere with the trial process or witnesses. She also questioned the integrity of the State’s evidence, since one of its police officers is facing a misbehaviour charge, while another is dead and the identification evidence in the case was questionable.

“The case at retrial is not the case at the first trial,” she said. “If there was ever a case meritorious for the granting of bail, this would be it.”

Patrick’s attorney, Shaun Morris, who appears with Larry Williams, also said his client has spent half his life in prison awaiting trial. Patrick is now 45, and Morris said he too had a fixed place of abode if granted bail and would adhere to any condition the court sets for them.

Both Chote and Morris also said the seriousness of the offence of murder should not be a reason why bail should not be granted to either man.

In response to the application, prosecutor Danielle Thompson insisted the State still had a good case against the two. She raised Tempro’s possible mental health as an issue for his not attending court if granted bail. She also said the State did not know the conditions he would be going back to, since the police have not been able to make the necessary checks since the application was filed in March.

Thompson said while the State did not have a report from the prison of any infractions to determine their criminal behaviour and risk of reoffending, if bail was to be granted, the court should impose strict conditions, including ordering electronic monitoring for both.

After hearing attorneys for the two men and the prosecution, Ramsumair-Hinds adjourned the matter to Friday to give her decision on bail.

Their applications are among scores of similar applications filed by people charged with murder, which was made possible in February when the Court of Appeal ruled that section 5(1) of the Bail Act of 1994, which denied bail to anyone charged with murder, was unconstitutional, not reasonably justifiable and trespassed on a core judicial function.

This ruling is being challenged by the State at the Privy Council.

Also being challenged by the DPP, at the Court of Appeal, is the first successful bail application, in March. In that matter, Joel King was granted $1.5 million by a Master of the High Court. His was the first time in over a century anyone charged with murder was granted bail.

Williams and Morris also represent King, who is still to access bail because other matters connected to the 2014 murder for which he was charged are pending.