The defence has asked for a mistrial in the long-winded trial of Granville De Freitas, a former police officer charged with possession of 62 pounds of beef that police believe was stolen or unlawfully obtained.
Defence counsel Ronald Marks made the submission at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, telling Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett that the meat produced as evidence was “in a state of decomposition”.
The trial resumed Tuesday after a weeks-long adjournment to allow the prosecution to bring the meat to court.
The defence counsel noted that the main dispute in the case is whether the meat in question is pork, goat, or beef.
He said that the situation in the case is that the exhibits have deteriorated to a point where it is made impossible for there to be a fair conclusion of the matter.
He, therefore, said that the defence was asking that the court declare a mistrial.
However, Prosecutor Cornelius Tittle said the exhibits were produced to the court in keeping with its order, and said that no one can be blamed for the condition of the exhibits.
He said he was told that the refrigerator in which the meat was being kept had been damaged, resulting in the deterioration of the exhibits.
Tittle argued that the trial had already gone past the stage of examining the exhibits.
However, Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett, who has been presiding over the trial since it began last September in Georgetown, said that the exhibits are needed for the trial to continue.
The magistrate said that if the integrity of the exhibit has been preserved, it would have been in court on Tuesday.
Tittle, however, maintained that even if the meat has gone bad, that does not mean that the case cannot continue.
But the magistrate noted that the defence wants the meat to be in court and pointed out that justice is for both sides: the defence and the prosecution.
The prosecution, however, said that the meat was outside the courtroom, but has a very putrid smell.
The magistrate then asked the prosecution if he would like an adjournment to seek guidance from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Marks also noted that the exhibit is under the care of the police and it is their duty to preserve it.
He illustrated that if drugs were tampered with after the fact, trials are allowed to proceed because of expert evidence, but noted that in the extant case, no such application was made to the court.
The defence counsel said it is impossible for the defence to present its case, adding, “To test what? Rancid meat?”
The magistrate said that the current situation of the case “is quite unfortunate”.
Marks said he wanted to go on record as objecting to an adjournment, noting the length of time that the trial has been going on, adding that the prosecution should have been made aware of the difficulties with the freezer before Tuesday.
The magistrate, however, said that it is only fair that he grant the prosecution the adjournment of the matter.
De Freitas was put on his defence on Nov. 2 at the Colonarie Magistrate’s Court—sitting at Georgetown—as Magistrate Rickie Burnett overruled a no-case submission he had made during the last sitting in late September.
However, the accused man who has been defending himself since his trial began last September, had asked for an adjournment so that he could retain legal counsel, the second such request he has been granted by the court since the trial began.
He later retained Marks as his counsel.
The case continues next Tuesday.
De Freitas sprung to notoriety on Dec. 29, 2015 for helping to arrest in Kingstown, opposition politician Ben Exeter, after police officers realized that Exeter had a firearm on his person.
Exeter was, at the time, the holder of a licensed firearm and his license was later revoked.
In November 2016, Burnett dismissed charges that were brought against Exeter and an opposition student activist who had also been arrested.
De Freitas quit the police force some time after arresting Exeter.