News

A bleak day for justice: FSU Alumna assassinated in Trinidad and Tobago

May 7, 2014

Filed Under: Alumni

Administrators at Florida State University’s (FSU) College of Criminology and Criminal Justice are saddened to report the assassination of alumna Dana Seetahal, MS ’85 Criminology. The United States Embassy at Port of Spain notified FSU Criminology Director of Development Kevin Derryberry of her passing Wednesday, May 7.

Dana Seetahal was a fierce campaigner for criminal-justice reform with a history of distinguished service to her nation of Trinidad and Tobago (TT) as an attorney and an independent senator. At the time of her death, she was the lead prosecutor in the high-profile trial of the 2006 kidnapping and murder of grocery chain, Xtra Foods, CEO Vindra Naipaul Coolman. She was also involved in drafting critical legislation to improve efficiency within the overburdened judicial system, including abolishing lengthy hearings in the lower courts and reforming the defunct TT plea bargaining system. Seetahal was one of only three women attorneys in the active practice of criminal law in Trinidad and Tobago to have the distinction of Senior Counsel, a title in Commonwealth countries bestowed by the head of state to recognize litigators for demonstrated professional excellence. Seetahal received this recognition in January 2006. She opened her own private practice in 2008.

n 2002, then President Arthur N.R. Robinson handpicked Seetahal to serve as one of his independent senators in the 7th Republican Parliament. She was again appointed an Independent Senator in the 8th and 9th Parliaments (October 2002 and December 2007). Before being appointed as an Independent Senator, Seetahal served as a State Prosecutor, Assistant Solicitor General, and Magistrate. She lectured at the Hugh Wooding Law School and held the position of Course Director in Criminal Practice and Procedure. She wrote the first and only textbook on Caribbean criminal practice, The Commonwealth Caribbean Criminal Practice and Procedure. She served as president of the Law Association for a time and was a weekly columnist in local newspapers, where she shared her oft distinct perspective on political, social, and legal matters of public concern.

She held a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the West Indies and a Master of Science in Criminology from Florida State University. From 1998-1999, Seetehal was a Humphrey fellow at the University of Minnesota where she focused on criminal justice in the areas of witness protection, jury selection, plea bargaining, and victimology.

The faculty and staff at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice express their deepest sympathy to her family during this difficult time.