Murder suspect acquitted, still on trial for robberies

PHILIPSBURG--The Joint Court of Justice acquitted a 32-year-old man Wednesday of involvement in the killing of well-known Indian businessman Haresh "Danny" Dayalani on May 26, 2009, at his Cole Bay home.
 
However, Robertson Peter of Dominica remains a suspect of involvement in two armed robberies at Pelican Marina's administrative offices May 13-14, 2009, the Court added.
 
In acquitting the defendant, the Joint Court followed the Court of First Instance, which had also acquitted him of murder and manslaughter in its decision of April 15.
 
The defendant and the Prosecutor's Office had both appealed the original sentence. During the November 6 appeal hearing, Solicitor-General Taco Stein had requested the Court of Appeals to sentence the defendant to 18 years on all charges.
 
Peter's lawyer Shaira Bommel had pleaded for her client's full acquittal.
 
The Prosecutor's Office primarily based its proof of the defendant's involvement in the killing of the late president of the Indian Merchants Association in French St. Martin during the attempted armed robbery of his home on DNA-material found on a Television Audience Measurement (TAM) in Dayalani's vehicle.
 
However, the Joint Court stated, the mere fact that the suspect's TAM was found in the car did not necessarily mean that he had also worn the TAM that specific night. Besides, a TAM is a moveable object and could, therefore, not be used as evidence of the suspect's presence in that car during that night.
 
Furthermore, witness statements also could not provide sufficient clarity of the defendant's presence near the scene of the crime to consider his involvement proven, the Court said.
 
The Court of First Instance had found the defendant guilty of having taken part in the armed robberies at Pelican Marina. On two consecutive days, resort workers were held up and robbed of their personal belongings. During the first robbery, two masked armed men held up staff and stole their belongings as they were threatened with a gun. Personnel lost cash, a laptop computer and cell phones.
 
Just over 24 hours later, the robbers went back, bound guards and other workers with tape, and plundered a safe, taking approximately US $8,000.
The two instigators of the Pelican robberies were both sentenced to three years, one of which was suspended, on two years' probation in June 2010.
 
Both had pointed at Peter as the man they had approached to commit the "move" to obtain "easy money." The evidence against Peter was mainly based on the statements of these two co-suspects. Peter's defence lawyer had contested the reliability of these statements, which were not corroborated by any other additional evidence. Considering this, the Joint Court decided to reopen the case for questioning of the two co-suspects, which is to take place during a hearing on January 29.
 
The Daily Herald
 
The defendant Robertson Peter is represented in this case by attorney at law Shaira Bommel of law firm Sulvaran & Peterson.

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