Carenage man freed of 2008 murder after main witness fails to testify

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A Carenage labourer shed tears on Monday after he was told he was no longer facing trial for a 2008 murder.

Weston “Wessy” Schulere, 45, of Murphy Street, was before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds in the Port of Spain High Court in a hybrid jury trial for the murder of 26-year-old Kendell Brown.

Brown was shot outside his home on May 29, 2008, when he was called outside by a gunman he knew.

Schulere was discharged after the judge directed the jury to return a not-guilty verdict in his favour.

She did so after submissions by the State concerning the State’s main witness, Marcus Mieux, who could not be found despite various attempts by the police to locate him.

In one of those attempts, the mother of the witness’s children told police he was “no longer interested” in the matter. In another, a junior officer spoke with him at a mall in St James and he allegedly said he would be present at the trial, which began on November 2, when the jurors were empanelled.

Ramsumair-Hinds said in such circumstances, she could not grant an application by the State to use the three statements the witness previously gave in his absence. She also refused an application to issue an arrest warrant for him, since it appeared the police had no way of contacting him.

“I cannot say all reasonable steps were taken (to find the witness),” the judge ruled. “He knew about the trial, and communicated he would be present. It is not that he cannot be found. He was found.”

She also said it was illogical that the trial had started without the prosecution’s ensuring its house was in order and its witnesses available.

This, she said, will continue to pose a challenge to the criminal justice system.

Left with no main witness, prosecutor Ambay Ramkellawan was forced to close the State’s case against Schulere.

This was followed by a no-case submission by Schulere’s attorneys, Larry Williams and Toni Roberts, that there was no evidence linking him to the crime.

The judge upheld this and directed the jury to return the not-guilty verdict.

Afterwards, Ramsumair-Hinds explained to the jurors that the evidence they had heard so far, as judges of the facts, was not enough to meet the test to take the case forward to the deliberation stage.

“There is a test to be met at each stage of the trial process and evidence must come for any charge on an indictment…

“The system worked the way it was supposed to work,” she told them, urging them also not to leave thinking there was something wrong.

“There are checks and balances for everyone. The law worked the way it was supposed to work.”

In addressing Schulere, who was at the Maximum Security prison for his trial – since prisoners are still not able to attend court in person, in keeping with covid19 practice directions by the Chief Justice – the judge had some advice for him.

He appeared surprised and relieved when told he had been discharged and would be released from prison on Monday.

“Be careful about the choices you make. You get a fresh start when you get your freedom. What happens is up to you,” the judge advised.

She told him to hold on to the word “circumspection,” explaining that whatever choice he makes, he should also consider the consequences and always be circumspect for the rest of his life.

“Hopefully, the remainder of your life is a good one.”

He was also reminded by his attorney, who was at the Hall of Justice with the judge, jurors and prosecutors, that he was coming out to a different world from the one he knew when he entered prison more than a decade ago.

“Stay out of everybody’s way.”