No move­ment on over a dozen in­quests rec­om­mended by DPP

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

De­spite the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) rec­om­mend­ing more than a dozen coro­ner’s in­quests into un­nat­u­ral deaths since the start of the year, none have been started.

A source at the DPP’s Cham­bers told Sun­day Stabroek that after re­view­ing files sent by the po­lice, in­quests were rec­om­mended in 15 cases.

The iden­ti­ties of the de­ceased in those cases were not im­me­di­ately avail­able. This news­pa­per sub­se­quently at­tempted to get this in­for­ma­tion as well as the sta­tus of those in­quests from the Ge­orge­town Mag­is­trates’ Courts but was un­suc­cess­ful.

How­ever, the po­lice pro­vided this news­pa­per with in­for­ma­tion on 11 of the in­quests, while not­ing that none had started. The bulk of those mat­ters re­late to road fa­tal­i­ties. The DPP had also ear­lier this year ad­vised that an in­quest be con­ducted into the shoot­ing deaths of three men at the hands of the po­lice.

The traf­fic ac­ci­dents on the list re­late to the deaths of Shawn Richards on Jan­uary 4th at Di­a­mond Ac­cess Road, East Bank De­mer­ara; Ro­han Pooran, on the Stan­ley­town Pub­lic Road, New Am­s­ter­dam on Fe­bru­ary 10th; Harry Per­saud on the Sarah Jo­hanna Pub­lic Road, East Bank De­mer­ara on Jan­uary 31st; Kemo Ste­wart, at Wa­ter and Holmes streets on March 23rd; Kr­ish­noutie, 62, at Met-enMeer­zorg Pub­lic Road, West Coast De­mer­ara in June, 2017; Alana Ram­saran, 25, on Fe­bru­ary 3rd, 2018, at Schoonard Ac­cess Road, West Bank De­mer­ara; and po­lice con­sta­ble Theon Hope and Qua­son An­thony, which oc­curred on May 1st, 2018 at Loo Creek, Lin­den/ Soes­dyke High­way. With re­gard to Hope and An­thony, the DPP re­cently with­drew two counts of caus­ing death by dan­ger­ous driv­ing laid against the driver, Rishawn Pierre, and ad­vised in­stead that the in­quest be con­ducted.

An in­quest had also been rec­om­mended into the March 10th, 2018 mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent which claimed the lives of Stan­ley Ju­nior, 24, and immigration of­fi­cer Na­vana Chase on the Hous­ton Pub­lic Road. The two were on a CBR mo­tor­cy­cle when Ju­nior al­legedly lost con­trol and crashed into a lantern post while ne­go­ti­at­ing a turn.

In­quests into the drown­ing deaths of 50-year-old Gavin Moses and 13-yearold Kime­anda Prince on Oc­to­ber 29th, 2017, at Rock­stone, Esse­quibo River and the stab­bing death of Oranda Flatts, 25, which oc­curred at Amelia’s Ward, Lin­den on Fe­bru­ary 9th, have also been rec­om­mended.

The March 15th fa­tal shoot­ing of Dex­troy Cordis, Kwame As­sanah and Er­rol Adams, along the Kingston sea­wall, in Ge­orge­town, is to also be the sub­ject of an in­quest.

The men, who were de­scribed as sus­pected ban­dits, were fa­tally shot north of the GNS Sports Ground after po­lice said they opened fire on ranks.

The men, the po­lice said, were about to ex­e­cute a rob­bery on a cus­tomer who had with­drawn $9.2 mil­lion from a bank. Based on the po­lice’s ver­sion of events, Cordis and As­sanah were spot­ted in a car in the vicin­ity of Sco­tia­bank on Robb Street. They were said to have later trailed the bank cus­tomer to the sea­wall. Po­lice fol­lowed in an un­marked ve­hi­cle.

“…[They] drove up to the cus­tomer’s ve­hi­cle and ex­ited, one bran­dish­ing a small arm at the cus­tomer,” the po­lice had said in a state­ment, which added that an anti-crime pa­trol, which was in close prox­im­ity, called out to the men but the one who was armed fired sev­eral rounds at the po­lice, who re­turned fire.

Two men were spot­ted on a CG mo­tor­bike near the dead men’s ve­hi­cle and one of them opened fire on the po­lice, who again re­turned fire. As a re­sult, po­lice said Adams was fa­tally shot, while his ac­com­plice sped away on the bike.

The ques­tion­able cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the killings, in­clud­ing the fact that at least one of the men was shot in the back, led to calls for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion. These

calls were bol­stered on March 26th, when Devon Lyte, who claimed to be an eye­wit­ness, pro­vided a ver­sion dif­fer­ent from the po­lice’s and gave a sworn state­ment along­side his at­tor­ney, Nigel Hughes. He said he was work­ing on the roof of the Guyana Softball As­so­ci­a­tion build­ing on Car­ifesta Av­enue at the time of the shoot­ing.

Based on his ac­count, Cordis, As­sanah and Adams, who were in a black car, were be­ing pur­sued by the un­marked po­lice ve­hi­cle, which he said opened fire on the men’s car. “I then saw about one per­son come out of the sil­ver car. He walked to­wards the black car. I then saw the per­son from the sil­ver car [the po­lice] start to beat the per­son who had come out from the driver’s side [As­sanah] and was ly­ing on the ground,” he said, while not­ing that the per­son was beaten while still on the ground.

Twenty min­utes later, Lyte said, there was rapid gun­fire and there was one per­son stand­ing over the same per­son who was ly­ing on the ground.

He said he did not wit­ness any ex­change of gun­fire and was un­able to say if the po­lice were fired upon. There were two bul­let holes in the po­lice ve­hi­cle and a gun was re­port­edly re­cov­ered from one of the dead men.

Ad­di­tion­ally, last month, the Reg­is­trar of the Supreme Court placed no­tices in the news­pa­pers re­quest­ing that wit­nesses for two in­quests ap­pear. The first mat­ter re­lates to Julian Al­leyne and it started on June 8th at the Providence Mag­is­trate’s Court. The no­tice did not state how Al­leyne died but listed the names of eleven wit­nesses, four of whom were law en­force­ment ranks.

The sec­ond mat­ter re­lates to Harry Bri­j­mo­han. June 15th was the first hear­ing at the Ge­orge­town Mag­is­trate’s Courts. Eight per­sons are ex­pected to take the wit­ness stand. Bri­j­mo­han, a 26 year old of­fice as­sis­tant at­tached to the Kai­eteur News, died on Novem­ber 18, 2016, hours after he was in­volved in a head-on col­li­sion in­volv­ing a car along the Hous­ton Pub­lic Road, East Bank De­mer­ara.

He was head­ing home from work when the ac­ci­dent oc­curred and sus­tained se­vere head in­juries, a dis­lo­cated shoul­der and a bro­ken foot.

On Jan­uary 14th, 2016, the Coro­ners (Amend­ment) Act of 2016 was passed de­spite con­cerns of the op­po­si­tion that it was a “cut and paste” piece of leg­is­la­tion that had not ben­e­fit­ted from wide­spread con­sul­ta­tions.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Le­gal Af­fairs Basil Wil­liams, the mover of the bill, had ar­gued that the amend­ments would pave the way for in­quests into the ex­ist­ing large num­ber of un­nat­u­ral deaths for which rel­a­tives need an­swers and clo­sure. The op­po­si­tion had dis­agreed with his rea­son­ing, stat­ing that what was needed is a holis­tic ap­proach.

The bill sought to have the act amended to give the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion the power to ap­point “fit and proper per­sons” as coro­ners; have at least three in De­mer­ara, two in Ber­bice and one in Esse­quibo; have a coro­ner ap­pointed for the whole of Guyana, have ev­ery per­son ap­pointed to that po­si­tion take and subscribe to the oath of of­fice taken by a mag­is­trate; have all the pow­ers, priv­i­leges, rights and ju­ris­dic­tion of a mag­is­trate and jus­tice of the peace and em­power the Chief Jus­tice to as­sign any num­ber of coro­ners to a county.

As it stood prior to the pas­sage of the amend­ments, all mag­is­trates were coro­ners and in­quests were heard by a mag­is­trate pre­sid­ing in or clos­est to the area where the un­nat­u­ral death had oc­curred.

Op­po­si­tion par­lia­men­tar­ian and Wil­liams’ pre­de­ces­sor Anil Nand­lall re­cently asked him to iden­tify the cor­ners ap­pointed since the pas­sage of the amend­ment. In re­sponse, Wil­liams, in a writ­ten re­sponse sub­mit­ted to the National Assem­bly, said that the ap­point­ment of such per­sons is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

Nand­lall had re­peat­edly said that no such ap­point­ment has been made de­spite the pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion and that mag­is­trates are still sad­dled with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of con­duct­ing in­quests.

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