The country’s first judge alone trial began on Wednesday in the San Fernando Second Criminal Court with seven witnesses completing their evidence in one day.
Kwasi Forde is being tried by Justice Gillian Lucky for the murder of Gerard Bocas which occurred during a robbery at a bar in San Fernando 14 years ago.
Three witnesses testified before the judge while the statements and exhibits of the others were tendered into evidence without objection from the defence.
The pace of the trial, when compared to a trial by jury, went faster with only one ten-minute. The trial was adjourned at 12.45 pm to resume on Thursday.
Forde first indicated his interest in having a jury-less trial on Monday, just three days after the trial by judge alone law came into effect.
When he returned to court yesterday, Lucky went through the official procedure before asking defence attorney Larry Williams to indicate Forde's decision.
The court marshal served Forde the official notice that he has 60 days before his trial date to indicate whether he wants a judge-alone trial.
Copies of the document were given to the defence, prosecution and the judge. The second step was for the defence to make a formal application.
Williams indicated that his instructing attorney Michelle Ali got full instructions from the accused who wants a judge-alone trial.
Williams requested that the trial commence immediately rather than in 60 days which was the official trial date.
Indicating that the prosecution was ready to proceed, Jones did not object.
The judge said, “This court ruling in the interest of justice, fairness being the cornerstone of the administration of justice, this court will then order that the accused be tried by judge alone.”
Before sending away the pool of potential jurors, the judge asked Forde whether he was comfortable and that his choice was “voluntary, without any pressure.”
He replied, “Yes, judge.” Forde, also known as Curtis, was arraigned and put in charge of the judge. He pleaded not guilty.
Jones indicated that the charge was felony murder.
In his opening address to the judge, State prosecutor Trevor Jones said the incident took place on October 10, 2005, at Cover Girls Restaurant and Bar at Carib Street.
Four men, armed with guns, entered the bar around 10 pm and ordered the patrons to lie on the ground. Several patrons were robbed and shot. Bocas died shortly after he was shot.
The formal evidence of the district medical officer Dr Oumattee Arjoon-Singh, police photographer Voster Yearwood, police draughtsman Gregory Hood and Bocas' wife, were read and tendered into evidence.
Jones then called bar owner, Narine Nanansingh who recalled he was sitting on a table with Bocas, his close friend, watching television.
Nanansingh and he left Bocas by the table and went by the cash register for money to pay his workers.
As he opened the cash register, he said a waitress shouted ‘hold up.’
Nanansingh said he saw two men with guns as he went into a nearby room. He testified that he heard gunshots as he called the police.
Nanansingh recalled seeing Bocas lying on the ground and gasping for breath. He said he did not get a clear view of the assailants' faces.
Under cross-examination, Nanansingh said he cannot recall seeing Forde at his bar at any time. Jones called two more witnesses — Damien Gopaulsingh and Paul Anthony — who were patrons at the bar.
The trial continues today.
Reporter: Sascha Wilson