Appeal Court reserves ruling in Marcus Bisram case

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday concluded hearing arguments in an appeal filed by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, S.C, seeking to quash a High Court order freeing Marcus Bisram of a murder charge. The Court comprising Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory-Barnes and Rishi Persaud has reserved its ruling.

Ali-Hack has maintained that her directive for Bisram to be committed to stand trial for murder is lawful, as there is sufficient evidence against him, for which a reasonable jury if properly directed, could safely convict.

In June 2020, Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall granted an order quashing a directive by the DPP to Magistrate Renita Singh for Bisram, to be committed to stand trial at the High Court in Berbice for the murder of Berbice carpenter Faiyaz Narinedatt.

Following a Preliminary Inquiry (PI), Magistrate Singh upheld a no-case submission by Bisram’s lawyers, thereby discharging the charge against him. The DPP immediately invoked her powers under section 72 (1) and (2) (ii) (b) of the Criminal Law Offences Act, by requesting that the depositions from the PI be sent to her and directed the Magistrate to reopen the inquiry with a view of committing Bisram.

The Magistrate promptly complied with the DPP’s directives. As a result, Bisram was rearrested. Bisram, through his lawyers, Arudranauth Gossai later asked the High Court for a judicial review of the DPP’s directive.

Justice Morris-Ramlall after analyzing the evidence in the depositions said, “The evidence disclosed in the depositions did not meet the requisite evidentiary threshold to support calling upon [Bisram] to lead a defence at the close of the prosecution’s case. No prima facie case had been made out. The same applies to the committal of [Bisram]. The evidence is insufficient, or, in other words, it is not of the quality that a reasonable jury properly directed could safely convict on it.”

In quashing the DPP’s directive for committal, the High Court Judge held that the state or extent of the evidence is a relevant factor that should have been taken into account by the DPP in arriving at her decisions. According to Justice Morrison-Ramlall, the evidence of the prosecution’s star witness “Chunilall” [only name given] was totally discredited and rendered manifestly unreliable.

According to the Judge, “At the close of the case for the prosecution, the evidence of Chunilall was totally discredited and rendered manifestly unreliable. The evidence remained substantially the same at the close of the case for the defence.”

The Judge pointed out that “Chunilall’s” evidence was the body and soul of the case against Bisram, and that there was no other evidence, direct or circumstantial linking him to the charge.

However, the DPP, in her arguments to the Court of Appeal, among other things, asserted, “His [Chuninall’s] evidence was admissible evidence and the issue that arises is the issue of credibility and that is an issue for a jury. This is a proper case for a committal, for it to go to trial in the High Court. Chunilall’s evidence is sufficient for a committal. When all the evidence is taken together there is sufficient evidence for a committal.  He was an eyewitness, and he was giving direct evidence of what he witnessed.”

Ali-Hack argues that the only issue left now to be determined is the issue of the witness’ credibility, which is for the jury, after receiving proper directions, to decide.

Bisram was charged with the 2016 murder of Narinedatt, a young father of two of Number 72 Village Corentyne, Berbice. It was reported that on the night of October 31, 2016, Narinedatt attended a party hosted by Bisram. It was also reported that Bisram made sexual advances to Narinedatt, a carpenter, who rejected them by slapping him. It was alleged that Bisram then ordered some men to kill Narinedatt whose lifeless body was later found on the roadway.

Awaiting trial at the High Court in Berbice for the murder of Narinedatt are: Orlando Dickie, Radesh Motie, Diodath Datt, Harri Paul Parsram, and Niran Yacoob. They were committed to stand trial in October 2018, following a lengthy PI at the Number 51 Magistrate’s Court.