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13 long years to freedom

Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Jury rejects murder charge
Jimmy Huggins, centre, is embraced by his sister Nneka Sylvan, left, and mother Erica Saunders after he was freed of a murder charge at the San Fernando High Court yesterday. Huggins spent 13 years in jail while awaiting trial. PICTURE KRISTIAN DE SILVA

La Brea resident Jimmy Huggins who spent 13 years in prison awaiting trial on a murder charge was freed yesterday after a jury took less than an hour to find him not guilty.

In an immediate response, his attorney Rekha Ramjit slammed the judicial and legal aid system which she said were in shambles.

Huggins, 33, went on trial last month in the San Fernando First Criminal Court charged with the murder of mini-mart owner Dalip Rambharose who died from a heart attack.

Rambharose, 53, was attacked by two men at his Sobo Village, La Brea business place on May 2, 2003. One of the men, who the State alleged was Huggins, chopped Rambharose on his thumb which had to be subsequently amputated.

Rambharose died 15 days after the surgery from a heart attack caused by a blood clot.

The State, represented by attorney Stacy Laloo-Chong and Shabaana Shah, relied on medical evidence to try to link the injury to his death. The State alleged Huggins admitted to the police upon his arrest in May 2005 that he chopped Rambharose.

Huggins did not testify at his trial but he denied, through his attorney, of being involved in the robbery, making the utterances to the police and signing any documents.

Told by Justice Carla Brown-Antoine that he was free to go, Huggins became emotional and began wiping his eyes. Huggins was first tried in 2016 but a retrial was ordered. Speaking in front the High Court, Ramjit recalled a similar case last month where her client, Ira Mitchell, was freed after spending 12 years in jail on a murder charge. Ramjit said in both cases much depended on medical evidence.

Ramjit, who was instructed by attorney, Hazel Castro, said in such cases the State must ensure it has proper medical evidence before someone is charged.

She said, “It is unfortunate that he spent that many years of the prime time of his life and then to be found innocent and now have to start all over again. And I am sure there are many, many people whose cases have been sitting there 12 to 15 years some of whom may be innocent. It is extremely unfair that the judiciary seems to be finding itself in more and more problems every single day, none of which assist in speeding up the delivery of justice.

“Whether a person is innocent or guilty they ought to know that at an earlier stage that has been happening and it seems to me the time that is being spent in prison is longer and longer before you can get access to justice. I would say that the legal aid system and the judiciary are falling apart and I say that without apology.”

Embraced by his mother, Erica Saunders, and Nneka Sylvan, Huggins thanked God, Ramjit and his family for their support over the years.

He said, “I come in jail 19 going on 20. I is 34 this year. My daughter going on 14 years this year I just want to go home and hug she up and be with my family.”

He said there were plenty innocent people in jail.

“Jail is not a nice place. I will not wish it on my worst enemy.”

Huggins, a fabricator and seafarer, said he intends to look for work to support his family.


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