IT has been almost 15 years since six-year-old Sean Luke was murdered in a cane field at the back of his home at Orange Valley, Couva.
And the two men charged with his murder are yet to go to trial.
Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo were expected to face a judge in November/December, when time had been set aside for a trial.
However, an issue has arisen in the case which could affect a possible trial date. Attorneys for Mitchell have asked for the prosecution against him to be stayed because of an issue which might prejudice a fair trial for him.
In the application, made last November, attorney Mario Merritt, asked for the staying of the indictment since the prosecutor who was then assigned to the case had represented Mitchell at the preliminary inquiry at the magistrates’ court.
This had been brought to the judge’s attention by the defence. Initially the prosecutor indicated they could not recall, eventually admitting that the claim was correct.
New prosecutors were assigned, but Merritt went ahead with his application, saying that he did not know what information the previous state attorney might have shared with the new prosecutorial team of Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal and Anju Bhola.
The matter came up again for hearing on Thursday before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds, who admitted these were unusual circumstances, but the court felt it prudent the attend to the issues with caution to allow both sides to say what they needed to on the record.
“It is a serious enough issue to pause,” she said.
Merritt was given until Monday to file his responses to the prosecution’s reply to his application. The matter will then come back up for hearing on that date, when a timetable for the new way forward is likely to be set.
Chatoo’s attorney Evans Welch indicated he was awaiting the court’s ruling on Mitchell’s application to determine what his client’s next move would be.
Although Merritt said even if the case against his client was stayed, the State can still proceed with its prosecution of Welch’s client, Welch did not agree that the case against the two could proceed separately.
“What happens to accused number one can still have an impact on accused number two.”
He said he would want an opportunity to articulate why it would have an impact on his client.
Mitchell and Chatoo were both minors when they were arrested for the March 26, 2006 killing of Luke, whose body was found two days after he went missing.
It was only when the trial reached court that they were old enough to be named.
Thursday’s hearing was held virtually, in keeping with covid19 rules for the court, which limits in-person hearings and does not require prisoners to be brought to court. However, the matter is assigned to the San Fernando Assizes. In 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions refused a request by the defence to have the trial transferred to the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
An autopsy showed that Luke, a US citizen, died from internal bleeding when a cane stalk was inserted into his body.