Cocaine in juice tins trafficker loses appeal

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A CONVICTED drug trafficker has failed to convince the Court of Appeal he was in a “romantic interlude” with a woman and was not responsible for the 206 juice tins containing cocaine police found in the house he was in.

In 2019, Stephen Gocking was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by Justice Maria Wilson (now an Appeal Court judge) after he was convicted of trafficking 21.74 kilogrammes of cocaine.

The cocaine was found in orange-juice tins by police who searched a house on Franklyn Road, off Union Road, Four Roads, Diego Martin, in 2001.

They found 45 orange-juice tins containing cocaine, a solid block of cocaine, weighing 25 grammes, in the kitchen and 161 orange-juice tins, which also contained cocaine and acetone, weighing 89 kilogrammes, in the trunk of his wife’s SUV, which he was using at that time.

At his trial, Gocking testified that the apartment at Franklyn Road belonged to his half-uncle Marlon and he was there “for a romantic interlude” with a young woman who was not his wife.

He appealed his conviction and sentence, filing five grounds of appeal – four of which were all dismissed on Monday by Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mark Mohammed and Malcolm Holdip. The fifth complaint was withdrawn at the hearing of the appeal in February 2021.

In their ruling, the judges held that the judge’s assistance to the jury, in particular on the issue of credibility and reliability of the prosecution’s witnesses, “was impeccable.”

Two of Gocking’s complaints were that the judge did not properly direct the jury on his exculpatory evidence (evidence that can prove a person’s innocence) of his telling the police he lived with his wife in Cocorite and not at the Franklyn Road apartment and that he lost the full benefit of a good character direction as a result.

However, the judges, in reversing a prevision decision on the issue, said there is now “no requirement for the judge to direct the jury that the appellant’s good character could be taken into account in determining whether his wholly exculpatory out of court statement was true.”

Gocking was represented by attorneys Larry Williams and Shaun Morris. Assistant DPP Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal represented the State.

At the appeal, Dougdeen-Jaglal disagreed with Gocking’s complaints, pointing out that the judge did raise Gocking’s fabrication defence, but accepted that the judge did not specifically address the issue of where he said he lived. However, she said the State’s case was that he had control of the apartment, not that he owned it.

“Love nest or drug nest – he was using this place. There was no necessity for the State to prove he lived there, but that he had control of the apartment. He had control, whether or not he lived there,” she had submitted.

She said it was open to the jury to come to the conclusion that he had control and was using the premises for nefarious purposes.

“It could be interpreted as control,” she insisted.

Gocking is a cousin of brothers Clint and Troy Gocking, who were fined $10 million for illegally importing two armoured Lincoln Navigator SUVs, which were impounded by the State.

He is also the nephew of Marlon Gocking, who was gunned down on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, in 2008.