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5481: Raboteau Trial Update (fwd)
Raboteau Trial Update
The Raboteau Trial has finally come to a close. This week featured the
closing arguments of all the lawyers, the jury's deliberations and decision,
and the sentencing by the judge.
On Monday, the lawyers for the victims, Mario Joseph and Duclas Marcellin,
followed by the prosecutors, Josue Pierre-Louis, Rocky Pierre, Frenot Cajuste
and Louiselme Joseph delivered their final arguments.
On Tuesday, lawyers for 11 of the defendants gave their summation, followed
by the other 11 on Wednesday. The lawyers for the victims gave a brief reply
to the defendants' arguments Wednesday evening.
On Thursday the defendants replied briefly to the victims' reply. After some
arguments over the jury instructions, trial judge Napela Saintil, submitted
the case to the jury at 2 PM. The jury returned at 6:30 with its decision.
Sixteen of the twenty-two defendants were found guilty of participating in
the massacre. Fifteen of these were convicted of "assassinat" (premeditated,
voluntary homicide), or complice d'assassinat, (accomplice to premeditated
voluntary homicide), the most serious accusations. One was convicted of
association de malfaiteurs (criminal conspiracy). Six accused were not
convicted of any infractions.
After a long debate over the charges, and requests by defense counsel to void
the jury verdict, the judge imposed the sentences. Twelve of those convicted
of assassinat or complice d'assassinat were sentenced to the mandatory life
of hard labor. The jury had found, for three of those convicted of complice
d'assassinat, that there were circonstances attentuantes (mitigating
circumstances), which lowered their sentence range to 3-15 years. The judge
gave them sentences of 4, 7 and 9 years. The remaining defendant, had a
sentencing range of 3-9 years, and was given 6 years. The latter four were
credited with time served in prison.
The victims presented their demand for civil damages, in the amount of
2,500,000,000 gourdes (about $97,000,000 US). Due to the late hour of the
proceedings (they finished after 1AM Friday morning), the judge postponed a
hearing on this issue.
The court did not address the 37 defendants not present at trial, including
the members of the military high command and the FRAPH leadership. They will
be tried in absentia by the judge, without a jury. It is expected that the
in absentia decision will be made within the next week.
By most accounts- the victims, judicial officials, international and local
observers, the trial went very well. Although there are some areas for
improvement in the next case, everyone agreed that the trial was
fundamentally fair for victim and accused.
For those interested in the details, I will send another email with the
convictions and the sentence for each of the defendants.
Brian Concannon Jr.