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Social media barred in Indian-origin woman’s murder trial

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Port of Spain, March 27 :

A judge hearing a case in which a prominent Indian-origin businesswoman in Trinidad and Tobago was killed nearly seven years ago, has warned the jury to avoid the social media and rely on the evidence unfolding during the trial.

Justice Malcolm Holdip also Wednesday warned media houses to ensure that their internet pages did not accommodate blogs and comment sections immediately under articles relating to the trial of the 12 men charged with kidnapping and murdering Vindra Naipaul Coolman, the chief executive officer of a supermarket in December 2006.

No evidence was heard during the court sitting Wednesday as the lawyers engaged in legal issues.

But Justice Holdip told the 12-member jury and the alternates that they should stay away from the social media, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Instagram, giving credence only to evidence heard in the court and from witnesses.

He told the jurors that they should not go onto any website and try to understand the law as it pertains to criminal matters, saying had this been a case of another nature, for example, involving medicine, he would have advised differently

He also instructed them not to read the newspapers as they might contain opinions, comments and blogs about the case. He said this could result in members of the jury forming their own opinions based on what they would have read.

Justice Holdip also urged media editors to exercise corporate responsibility and remove the various sectors on their website allowing for public debate on the trial.

He said 10 years ago, the court would not have had this problem but with the advancement of technology “one must place certain stipulations so as to protect the judicial system”.

When the trial began Monday, senior counsel Israel Khan said the accused had used an electric saw to dismember the body of the businesswoman, possibly even while she was still alive.

“They cut off her legs up to her belly. They cut off both arms from her shoulders. They cut off her head. They cut up her belly and chest. Her body parts were placed into black garbage bags for disposal,” Khan said.

Defence lawyers are expected to address the jury when the trial resumes April 1.

(IANS/CMC)