Opinion: Bag of tricks

POSTED: 10/23/12 2:59 PM

Attorneys for suspects in the Vesuvius trial open their bags of tricks yesterday in an attempt to counter the charges the prosecution brought against their clients last week Thursday. The stakes are high: the prosecution’s demands vary from 8 to 11 years imprisonment and for two of the defendants that will appear in court today the demand is life.
The chess game between prosecution and defense attorneys is always interesting because it somehow manages to create a complete picture of what really transpired. We’re not just referring to the sometimes gory details of the crimes suspects are on trial for, but also to the way investigators tackle their challenging jobs.
Who would have thought for instance that two detectives would go under cover for an astonishing eight days in a police cell with Carlos R., the alleged hit man of the (also alleged) gang leader Omar J.?
Who would have thought that the police in Aruba would cause a police van to break down (according to one attorney it had a flat tire) and that the vehicle was stranded for more than an hour while Vesuvius-suspects Omar J. and Erno L. were quietly chatting inside? And least of all these two suspects would have thought that the police had installed eavesdropping equipment in that van so that every word they uttered that day would land on the prosecutor’s desk?
Who would have thought that a man who showed up one day at a recreational soccer match where suspect Andrew D. was playing was not, as he said, an employee of Windward Roads but in fact a member of the investigation team?
Who would have thought that the latter suspect would become the target of structural observation, even though a court ruling from already a couple of years ago declared this method unacceptable as long as there was no legal basis for it? The investigators took a chance there that could backfire, though nothing is certain yet.
Now that all these details are out in the open, it is up to the defense attorneys to tackle the methods the prosecution used and to make the best of it for their clients.
The undercover activities that took place during this important investigation will take center stage in this contest, but there is more.
Attorney Cor Merx and his mentor Ralph Richardson (at the ripe age of 75 still an alert presence in the courtroom) brought up several issues that are hard to explain to a layman, but that present legal challenges for sure.
Judge Rick Smid will have a tough job making sense of it all. The Vesuvius-file counts more than one thousand pages and the attorneys added several hundred pages to it between them.
If all goes according to schedule, and the court proceedings end on Thursday after the prosecution has responded to the defense and the attorneys and their clients have had their last words, sentencing is expected at or around November 15.

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