State witness still at St Ann’s – won’t return to testify in murder trial

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A state witness is placed in an ambulance outside the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain on May 22. – Photo by Jada Loutoo

A prosecution witness who was sent to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital by a High Court judge for evaluation a week ago is still there.

She will not have to give further evidence after the hospital’s director said the witness was at level-three suicide watch and has said she would rather “commit suicide than to give evidence.”

Dr Samuel Shafe also said his medical team needed more time to assess her.

This update was given to the High Court judge who ordered the witness sent to St Ann’s. On May 22, Justice Lisa Ramsumar-Hinds ordered the woman sent to the hospital after she overdosed on a substance while waiting to continue her testimony in the trial of a Beetham man.

The accused, Christon “Grimey Dog” Greaves, is alleged to have killed Laventille schoolboy Kazim Maxine, 16, in August 2013, outside the Laventille Technology and Continuing Education Centre off the Eastern Main Road, Laventille, near the Citrus Growers Association.

Greaves is before the court in a judge-only trial.

Early in the woman’s testimony last week, the judge expressed concern about her demeanour, as she was crying, holding her head and shaking.

The witness admitted she had self-medicated to “kill herself.”

The judge’s order to send her to St Ann’s came after she was told, late in the afternoon, the woman had taken“too much of something and is now on the floor.”

“I have concerns that this witness needs treatment.

“I do not want to hear she has harmed herself. I am not saying she is mentally ill or suffers from a mental incapacity, I am not qualified to do so.”

Ramsumair-Hinds made the order under section 13 of the Mental Health Act, after quoting section 6. The latter says an order of the court can admit any person who is or is reasonably believed to need treatment. Section 13 gives a court the power to make such an order.

The judge said she believed the witness’s actions and demeanour during her testimony had triggered section 6.

The Judiciary’s medical team called an ambulance to take the witness to hospital for treatment for whatever substance she had taken, before she was sent to St Ann’s.

The matter was adjourned to May 28, to get an update from the hospital’s director.

Shafe said the witness was seen on Friday and Saturday and the hospital’s forensic team took over on Monday. He said the team asked for two weeks for a proper assessment and treatment.

Shafe also said the witness was under “acute care” and had to be monitored every 15 minutes.

He could not give a definitive answer to the judge’s question as to whether the witness was “fit enough” to continue to give evidence until she is properly assessed.

Although Ramsumair-Hinds expressed concern over suspending the witness’s right to liberty, she said her greater concern was the woman’s well-being.

The judge continued her section 13 order until next Wednesday, when Shafe is expected to submit a report.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge invited brief submissions on section 15C(1)(b) of the Evidence Act, which allows a court to admit a statement in a criminal trial if a witness is unfit because of his or her bodily or mental condition to give evidence.

She said while she was continuing the section order, the witness would not have to return to court to give evidence after Greaves’ attorney Wayne Sturge said she should not be giving evidence, having regard to her history and what she did last time she came to court.

In her statements to police, the woman allegedly identified Maxine’s killer from a front-page newspaper photograph.

However, she said she did not recall speaking to the police or why she had signed a statement. She gave four statements to the police.

She was also asked why she said she had asked God to block out her memory and was trying to take tablets to kill herself.

The prosecution had applied to have her deemed a hostile witness and each of the police officers who took her statements was called to give evidence in support of the application.

Testifying were Sgt Stanley Romeo and acting ASP Sheldene Bacchus. On May 28, DCP Intelligence and Investigations Suzette Martin, who took a statement from the witness on January 10, 2014, testified, and the statement of a security guard was tendered into evidence.

Questioned about her statements last week, the witness said she did not recall September 2013, speaking to the police or going anywhere.

“When the whole thing was going on I was in a dark place. I can’t remember reading anything to sign anything.”

Later on, she said, “Please, no, I don’t want to go back there. I was trying to take tablets to kill myself.”

Last week, the statements and evidence of 12 witnesses were uncontested and tendered into evidence.

Prosecuting is Charmaine Samuel. Danielle Rampersad is also defending Greaves.

The trial continues on May 30 when all the evidence is expected to be admitted.