Killer appeals conviction for 2008 East Dry River murder

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Port of Spain District Magistrates Court. – Photo by Sureash Cholai

CONVICTED in 2016 and sentenced to hang for the 2008 murder of a sanitation worker with the Housing Development Corporation, Hakim “Gargamel” Brathwaite has mounted a challenge to his trial in the High Court.

On Wednesday, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Gregory Smith and Malcolm Holdip heard submissions from Braithwaite’s attorney Peter Carter and deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Joan Honore-Paul, although they are yet to hear arguments on whether Brathwaite should be given time to appeal, since his notice was filed late.

He has also filed an additional ground which raises constitutionality issues. These two will be heard in the new year.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Carter advanced the other grounds of appeal, all of which complained of the way the trial judge dealt with salient aspects of the defence in her directions to the jury.

Brathwaite, of Foster Cuevado, Picton in Laventille, was accused of killing 30-year-old Kevin Miguel Williams on April 17, 2008.

Williams, of Plaisance Road, East Dry River, Port of Spain, was shot dead while working at the “plannings” just off the Old St Joseph Road in East Dry River.

In 2016, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to hang by Justice Althea Alexis-Windsor

Carter said there were “material irregularities” in the judge’s directions on Brathwaite’s defences. He complained about the choice of words the judge used and said by doing so she had failed to put to the jury the middle ground in each defence of fabrication and alibi. He claimed the police fabricated the murder charge against him, while his own testimony presented an alibi for his whereabouts when it was alleged he committed the murder.

He also complained that the judge’s juxtaposition of Brathwaite’s defences with the prosecution’s deprived him of having his defence “fairly” put to the jury.

Carter also complained of the judge’s failure to carefully caution the jury on the evidence of a senior police officer in the case, who allegedly identified Brathwaite as the killer, when the two had a history.

He also raised issues with the failure of the police to produce personal pocket diaries to substantiate claims of utterances by Brathwaite, saying it not only raised questions of police following the proper procedure but also credibility, but the judge did not raise the latter.

In response to the appeal, Honore-Paul took the judges through the judge’s summation, insisting there was a clear middle ground for the two defences and the judge had thoroughly gone through Brathwaite’s defence. She said the “juxtaposition” complained of was only to clarify specific issues.

She also dismissed the complaint about the failure to caution the jury on the credibility of the police, pointing out that the judge did explain to them the officer in question was a witness with an interest to serve, and how they should approach his evidence.

Also appearing with Honore-Paul at the appeal was assistant DPP Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal.

The judges now have to set a date to hear the additional ground of appeal and the application for leave to extend the time to allow Brathwaite’s appeal.