Man drove car over five people at Princess Casino

POSTED: 06/15/12 12:35 PM

Prosecution demands 8 years for multiple attempted manslaughter

St. Maarten – Public prosecutor \mr. Manon Ridderbeks demanded 8 years imprisonment against 49-year-old cab driver Mathurin A. for  a bizarre case of multiple attempted manslaughter that occurred on March 31 in front of the entrance of the Princess Casino at Port de Plaisance. Judge mr. Monique Keppels will pronounce her verdict on June 27.

At 3.30 a.m. on the morning of March 31, the defendant drove his Toyota Landcruiser into a group of people because he thought a man who had threatened him on an earlier occasion with a gun was coming after him. In the process, the man not only hit five different people, he also drove his heavy car over some of them, causing the victims serious injuries.

Remarkably, some of the victims have known the defendant for twenty years. Three of the victims even appeared in court as witnesses for the defense. Before these witnesses could be heard, the prosecution showed video footage of the incident that shows that the defendant indeed drove with his car over several people.

But even after seeing the images, A. maintained that he had not driven over the victims. The incident was apparently triggered by the defendant’s fear for an unknown man who – according to testimony by his 24-year-old son, had threatened him on an earlier occasion with a gun.

Two of the victims, women in their early thirties, testified in court on behalf of the defendant. One of them sustained liver damage after the car had driven over her belly; it took her a full month after the incident before she was able to stand up and walk again, and in court she was still using crutches.

But the witnesses did not have one bad word to say about the accused. Instead they expressed their gratitude that they had not been killed.
The defendant told the police that he thought everybody had jumped out of the way and that he had not hit anyone. “I did not want to kill anyone,” he said.

In the group of people that night was an unknown man in a blue shirt and a rasta-man whose true identity also remained obscure. Prosecutor Ridderbeks noted that the rasta had jumped into the fountain in front of the casino to evade the car.

“This is a horrible case,” she said. “It is just that the public prosecutor’s office believes that the defendant had the intention to kill people, but we have to judge what he did. And we have to assess whether driving with a car into a group of people amounts to attempted murder or attempted manslaughter. If you drive with a Toyota Landcruiser into a group of people and you drive over first one, then two, then three people, there is at least conditional intent. It is a miracle that they have all survived.”
The prosecutor said that one of the victims had been warned with a desperate shout to turn her head away because it looked like the car was going to drive straight over it. By turning away, this victim survived even though the car then drove over her back. “All victims could have been dead. One of them said that she thought: this is my death; I will never see my children again. It is not that the defendant wanted this, but it did happen.”

The prosecution concluded that there is proof for multiple attempted manslaughter. “The defendant is a first offender, and the victims have said here in court that they are doing relatively well, but that is because they are religious and because they forgive. The prosecution does not want to get away from the facts, and the consequences are completely for the defendant’s account.”

mr. Remco Stomp said that his client had panicked when he thought the man who had earlier threatened him with a gun came towards his car with a bottle in his hands. “He was scared to death of this man,” the attorney said. He said his client had acted under psychological duress and that he should therefore be acquitted; as an alternative, mr. Stomp asked the court to dismiss all prosecution against his client.

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