He is accused of killing a man outside his yard, but the case of Chayben
Abou-Nehra goes much deeper than just innocence or guilt. It has had a polarizing
effect on the community, galvanizing the doubts of many who feel that a well
connected, well-heeled man is not likely to be convicted for killing a poor
man with no friends in high places.
And in the middle of what some say is a miscarriage of justice is the
office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. That office blazed into the headlines
a week ago when it was forced to enter a “nolle pros” in the Abou-Nehra
(Bou Nahra) case. That’s after the prosecutor was basically disqualified
from appearing for the crown. It was one more gaffe in a case that has seen
many: beginning with the police’s refusal to charge Abou-Nehra for murder,
followed by his extended absence from arrest because of what was explained as
an illness, punctuated by the disappearance of key evidence from the file.
But today the DPP defended his office and its performance in what he
conceded has been a very irregular case. Here’s what he had to say today.
Lutchman Sooknandan, Director of Public Prosecutions
“100% certain that this case will be reinstated again in the Supreme
Court. Once it is done properly, once this case has reached the court and all
the players are fairly treated, I feel that the office has done its work. I
don’t treat it as special; murder is murder is murder.”
But it’s not murder, its manslaughter.
“And manslaughter is manslaughter is manslaughter.”
Critics have said that in fact your office should have sent someone senior to
try such a high profile case; someone such as perhaps Miss Cheryl Lynn Branker-Taitt,
your deputy who has been extensively on the case. In a memorandum, which has
now been brought into the public, she wrote to the CIB saying that the charge
should have been murder. Why was not a senior officer such as that put on the
“Miss Taitt wrote the first memorandum, advising that it should be
a charge of murder. Subsequently, certain things happened to that file, this
a matter of investigation, hence the charge had to be lowered to manslaughter.
Miss Taitt said openly she would not want to deal with that file anymore.”
You would agree though that a lot of unusual things have happened with this
case. First of all, we have the exceptional case where the former DPP gives
a directive and the police refused to follow that directive, simply saying,
‘we will not charge for murder.’ Then the second thing that happens
is the caution statement disappears from the file. This has been reported in
the Reporter Newspaper months ago.
“Since you make mention of that, that caution statement has been missing.
I would like to point out that when Miss Taitt wrote her opinion, her memorandum
to the police, she had that caution statement in that file. When I got the file
that caution statement was not there. I personally asked the police to investigate
and write a report and to trace what happened to it. To date, the file has returned
to me without that caution statement. Hence the reason that case, that charge
was reduced from murder to manslaughter. Also, I have personally launched an
investigation all around because I want to get to the truth. I want that statement.”
Do you think it was a mistake or do you think it was some intentional act of
“I don’t think in the least that it was a mistake. I think that
this statement disappeared when this file was with the police. I will be so
bold to say that because I don’t intend to...”
It was deliberate?
“I want to believe so.”
It was a deliberate act?
“I don’t know but I want to believe so.”
But you can see when the case comes out in a nolle pros that in many people’s
minds, it fulfills the inevitable conclusion that it has been one setup, one
setback after another, and that it ends as it began with deliberate ineptitude
and a specific type of mishandling which indicates that it is a setup. You can
see how the public could conclude that.
“I can see that. I am very much aware of that.”
There is a racial dimension, there are class dimensions, all of these elements
factor into this case. Earlier you said that justice in a democracy has to be
served but also justice must also be seen to be served.
“And I will add further, there must be a semblance of propriety in
what we do here. This has no impact on what we do in terms of this being a rich
person and the person being a poor black person. Justice must be for all. The
day that I cannot do that, I will resign. I will walk away from this office.
The day that I’m being told otherwise, I will resign.”
What would you say to the average person out there who feels that Shawn Copious’
death through deliberate acts of your office and the Police Department, through
deliberate acts, Shawn Copious’ death, many believe, will not be honored
with a just trial. What would you say to that person?
“I can tell the public, all those who are listening, that have faith
in the judicial system. This trial will have its full course in the Supreme
Court and each witness will be heard and this case, as I said, will be heard
to the fullest extent. I take that assurance and I stand by it to the public.”
The file is missing a critical document. Are you confident that there is enough
in there for a conviction?
“Yes I am convinced that there is enough for a conviction. I have
heard other things being spoken by defense counsels. I do not agree with them.
I heard the comments made by Mr. Bradley on the day when this case was nolle
prosequi. I do not agree with him at all. I beg to differ but I will leave that
until the case is properly heard and the Copious’ family will have their
And while he defended his case, Sooknandan deplored the actions of
Lois Young Barrow who on KREM’s W.U.B. this morning read a memorandum
from Cheryl Lynn Branker-Taitt to the former boss of CIB, Chester Williams explaining
why the charge should be murder.