Court declares prosecution inadmissible in robbery-trial

POSTED: 08/11/11 12:03 PM

Detectives failed to report results Oslo-confrontation

St. Maarten – Judge mr. M. Keppels declared the prosecution inadmissible in the case against Hector Bienvenido C., 22, and Gleivon Daniel C., 21. The defendants, who are not related, were accused of robbing J.A. Sauceda Ortiz, a crew member on a cruise ship, of $1,200 and a gold chain. The robbery took place on March 18 near Le Petit Chateau on Pond Island.
The suspects were arrested within an hour of the robbery. At the police station a so-called Oslo-confrontation took place. The defendants were placed in a line-up that consisted of at least one police officer and several detainees. Ortiz told officers that he did not recognize the robbers from this line-up.
The officers of the Special Robbery Unit who handled the case, a 30-year-old Marechaussee and a 43-year-old police officer did not write a report about the confrontation. This fact only became known during the court case on June 29. That day, Gleivon C.’s attorney mr. G. Hatzmann claimed that such a confrontation had not taken place, but Hector C. pointed out that it had, and that it had not been entered into the police report.
“If this is true then the police has lied to the court, to the prosecutor’s office and to the defense attorneys,” prosecutor mr. M. Overmeer said in June. She asked the court to order an investigation into the matter.
Yesterday the Robbery Unit officers testified in court. It appears that the robbery victim had been under time pressure and that he asked the officers to hurry up with the procedures because he had to return to his ship. The officers told him to come back in two weeks to sign a statement about the confrontation, but the victim never came back, and the officers, overwhelmed with work on other cases, forgot all about it.
“I regret that this report has not ended up in the case file,” the Marechaussee told the court, and the police officer admitted that this part of the investigation could have been handled better.
While prosecution, judge and defense attorneys acknowledged that the omission had not been intentional, opinions about the consequences differed.
Prosecutor mr. M.L.P. Ridderbeks, recognizing that omitting such a report is “one of the worst mistakes a police officer can make” said that the result of the confrontation was not all that important. “The victim said that he did not recognize them; he did not say: it’s not them. That is something different,” she said.
Ridderbeks said that there was enough evidence for a conviction, because a witness had reported the license plate of the defendants’ car to the police, and the men had been arrested within an hour. The victim did recognize the car, but not the robbers.
She demanded 3 years imprisonment against Gleivon C., who was not in court because he has left for Dominica, and 1.5 year against Hector C., with 6 months suspended.
Both attorneys however asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible. “This is a deadly sin,” mr. Hatzmann said, pointing out that the result of the confrontation should have been available when the suspects appeared in front of the Judge of Instruction.
Hatzmann also argued that there was no convincing evidence: not the gun that was used during the robbery, nor the gold chain and the $1,200 were found in the car or in the defendants’ possession.
mr. Kraaijeveld shared Hatzmann’s opinion about the inadmissibility of the prosecution. He also argued that the arrest had been unlawful and that therefore evidence obtained as a result of the arrest ought to be excluded.
mr. Kraaijeveld also asked the court to take his client’s personal circumstances into account. After his arrest he lost his well-paid job as a chef in a restaurant in Simpson Bay. He found employment in Anguilla but he lost that job as well due to the economic conditions on that island. Currently Hector C. is busy setting up his own catering business.
mr. Keppels withdrew briefly to consider the case. When she returned to the courtroom, she did not mince her words. “This is a procedural mistake and it is irreparable. The principles of fair trial have been violated and the interests of the defendants have been harmed. Their chances for a fair trial have become impossible, and therefore the prosecution must be declared inadmissible.”

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