Feature

Murder At ‘Kings’: The Grounds Of Appeal And Rejection

In Part 3 of the series on Mr Amos’ murder, the Fiji Sun today looks at some grounds of appeal filed by the convicted persons.
19 Jul 2019 17:02
Murder At ‘Kings’: The Grounds Of Appeal And Rejection
A shopping area in Nabua, Suva where the Kings Hotel was previously located. INSET: Bob Amos.

A number of grounds of appeal were advanced by Prakash Wati Amos and many of these were common to and adopted on behalf of other appellants by their counsels.

The judges of the Fiji Court of Appeal said in their opinion, some of the grounds of appeal had little merit.

Change of venue

Considering the media publicity at the time of the appellants arrest, the first court appearance and leading up to the trial, Mrs Amos’ lawyers submitted in the appeal that there should have been a change of venue from Suva.

But the Fiji Court of Appeal said this was an unsubstantiated ground and rejected it.

Judge’s Prejudice

Her lawyers also submitted that because there had been an earlier trial that commenced, but aborted at a very early stage, the learned trial Judge should have disqualified himself from presiding at the second trial.

The Court of Appeal judges said this ground was also without merit.

Particulars of Conspiracy

Mrs Amos’ lawyers also suggested that the Crown was obliged to give particulars of the acts of Rao and her which constituted conspiracy.

“As the court pointed out, during the course of argument, the Preliminary Inquiry records showed that the facts which appellants 1 and 2 (Rao and Mrs Wati) had to face in respect of the conspiracy charge was the evidence to the effect that they met together on some three or four occasions when the intended killing was discussed,” the judgment said.

“Money was paid and instructions were given. Nothing could have been plainer and particulars were not called for.”

Accomplice Evidence and the Immunity

The main thrust of the appeal was a submission that in dealing with the evidence of Manohar Prasad in his summing up, the learned trial judge cast this evidence in too favourable a light.

Manohar, an employee of the hotel, was also charged with murder but he became the State witness and was granted immunity.

Mrs Amos’ lawyers submitted that in particular the judge failed to deal with contradictions, especially those revealed in cross-examination.

They had also submitted that the judge did not deal in sufficient detail with the unsatisfactory features associated with the immunity and the consequent unreliability of evidence which flowed from it.

Also, they attacked the unreliability of Manohar’s evidence and submitted in the appeal that at the close of the prosecution case, the trial judge should have ruled that there was no case to answer in respect of Mrs Amos.

In the judgment, the Fiji Court of Appeal said, “There is no doubt that Manohar was an accomplice – although by no means the central figure in the affair.”

Manohar had cast himself as a messenger between Rao and Jagdish, a carrier of money and as a spectator in attendance at times when the gang was being assembled and instructed.

“But an accomplice he certainly was, at the very least as one who helped procure the commission of the offence,” the judgment said.

Manohar’s evidence

During the trial, Manohar revealed in court details leading up to his final participation prior to the killing when he assisted Rao on June 3, 1985, in undoing a lock on Mr Amos’ office.

Mrs Amos’ lawyers had submitted during the trial and on appeal that Manohar bought his freedom by agreeing to implicate Mrs Amos, Rao, Jagdish, Janendra and Jitendra.

After taking into consideration all the matters raised, the Fiji Court of Appeal believed that regardless of nomenclature – “accomplice” or “immune witness”, the fact that his (Manohar) evidence had been purchased was demonstrated and hence the warning that it was dangerous and only to be accepted after the closest scrutiny.

The judgment said that the dangers were spelled out in the clearest fashion (in the summing up after the trial) and the assessors could not have been under any doubts as to the need for “soul searching”.

Rao’s appeal

Apart from being the manager of Kings Hotel, Rao held one third interest in Amos Limited which leased the hotel.

He was charged with conspiracy and murder, with the Crown case against him being that he conspired with Mrs Amos to bring about Mr Amos’ death and played the leading role in planning it.

The case against him was also that he recruited the assassins, devised the means by which Mr Amos should meet his death and smoothed the path of those who were to bring it about.

His original grounds of appeal raised only three issues, but he was given leave by the court to add and argue a further eight grounds, six of which related to Manohar.

The court rejected the grounds of appeal.

Jagdish, Janendra and Jitendra

The case against them was based mainly on their own confessions to the Police, contents of which were supported to a large extent by the evidence of Manohar and Ralulu.

All their grounds of appeal, several of which were earlier submitted by Mrs Amos’ lawyers, were rejected by the court.

Feedback: avinesh.gopal@fijisun.com.fj

Next week: The appeal by Josua Ralulu.

Part 1: Robert Emerson Amos

Part 2: The Plans To Kill Bob Amos

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