Serial 1504

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1504 of the FBI’s RYMUR release.]

UNCLASSIFIED FBB 368

[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on pdf]

0 031545Z JAN 79
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8631
UNCLAS GEORGETOWN 0019
CORRECTED COPY (TEXT)
E.O. 12065: NA
TAGS: CARR, GY (LAYTON, LARRY) (PEOPLES TEMPLE)
SUBJ: W/W ARRESTS: LARRY LAYTON; PRELIMINARY INQUIRY CONCLUDES WITH DECISION TO COMMIT LAYTON TO JAIL
REF: A. GEORGETOWN 4329 B. GEORGETOWN 4517

Begin summary: Preliminary inquiry into the murders of Congressman Ryan and four other Americans concluded yesterday, Jan 2, as Magistrate Krishna Chinia committed Layton to a jury trial for the murder of Ryan. Prior to the magistrate’s decision, two witnesses testified, and defense and prosecuting counsels both made statements summarizing their respective cases. Layton, in a brief statement, proclaimed his innocence. End summary.

1. At the beginning of the Jan 2 session, Dr. Cyril Leslie Mootoo, the Government of Guyana pathologist, testified. Mootoo related his findings based on post mortem examinations of Congressman Ryan and the other four Americans killed at Port Kaituma. While Mootoo was discussing the autopsy of Don Harris, defense counsel Kai Naraine Singh objected that the testimony was irrelevant to the only charge laid against

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Layton so far, i.e., the murder of Congressman Ryan. Magistrate Chinia overruled Singh’s objection, noting that at the beginning of the inquiry the prosecutor said he would “lead” all the evidence concerning all of the killings and attempted murders at Port Kaituma on Nov. 18. The defense, Chinia continued, did not object to the prosecutor’s expressed intention at that time, and thus could not object at this late stage. A police draughtswoman who drew a map of the Port Kaituma airstrip also testified. Both Mootoo and the policewoman were cross-examined by the defense.

2. Singh, in making the defense’s “no case” submission to the court, contended that a prima facie case had not been made on the murder charge. There was no evidence, according to Singh, to show that Layton shot Ryan, or to show that Layton committed any act which caused the Congressman’s death. Furthermore, there was no evidence introduced to show that Layton was present when Ryan was shot. In fact, the evidence showed that Layton was in a plane, with its doors closed, when the shooting took place. This plane, according to the testimony of witnesses, was from 200 to 400 yards from the point where Ryan met his death. There was also no evidence, Singh continued, to show that Layton had conspired with anyone or acted in concert with anyone to kill Ryan. The law requires the evidence to establish such a conspiracy must be unequivocal. In this case, the unequivocal test was clearly not met.

3. Nandram Kissoon, in his concluding statement, conceded that there was no evidence that Layton fired any shot at Ryan. However, Kissoon continued, a prima facie case against the accused could be made. Layton went on the truck from Jonestown to Port Kaituma with the others, and shortly before the shooting

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began, according to an eyewitness, received a gun from Joe Wilson. He therefore acted in concert with Wilson and others. After the shooting, Layton was seen approximately 15 feet away from the five dead bodies. And, on Nov. 22, the accused made a statement, after being duly cautioned by the police, in which he took full responsibility for the killings (Ref A). This statement alone, Kissoon concluded, was enough to establish the prima facie case.

4. Magistrate Chinia then stated that based upon all of the evidence, a prima facie case had been established. Layton she explained, may not have fired the shot, but enough evidence has been introduced to show that he had been “working in concert with others.” Layton then made a statement from the docket, declaring that he was innocent of the charge, and that he did not shoot at, or conspire with anyone to shoot at, Congressman Ryan or any other person. Chinia then committed Layton to trial before the next session of the High Court, which begins Jan. 9, 1979.

5. Comment: As noted above, the only formal charge against Layton to date is for the murder of Ryan. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), based upon his review of the depositions taken during the inquiry, has the power to file additional charges against Layton. Conceivably, Layton could also be indicted for the murders of Don Harris, Greg Robinson, Bob Brown, and Patricia Parks, and for the attempted murders of Vern Gosney, Monica Bagby, and Dale Parks. At the same time, the DPP has the power to decide not to prosecute Layton, even on the charge of murdering Ryan, if the DPP feels the evidence is not strong enough. Kissoon, however, informed Emboff [Embassy Officer] after yesterday’s session that there is virtually no chance that Layton will have the charge against him dismissed before going to trial.

6. The exact date the trial will begin is uncertain. One of

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the defense counsels informed Emboff that it is highly unlikely that the GOG [Government of Guyana] can complete all of the required paperwork before Jan. 9. In addition, the date of the trial must appear in the official Gazette at least one week in advance. Thus the trial will probably begin several weeks into the session, which runs until April 1979. End comment.

Dwyer [Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of Mission, American Embassy, Georgetown]

Originally posted on July 25th, 2020.

Last modified on July 15th, 2022.
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