THERE will be an in-person sitting in the Sean Luke murder trial on Monday as the process of challenging the admissibility of certain evidence continues.
On Wednesday, Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds told attorneys for the prosecution and defence she had got clearance to have an in-person hearing in one of the courts at the San Fernando Supreme Court.
Akeel Mitchell, 28, and Richard Chatoo, 30, went on trial on Friday before Ramsumair-Hinds at a judge-only trial. Both were arraigned and then allowed to enter their pleas last week.
It is alleged that on a date unknown, between March 25 and 29, 2006, in Couva, the two men murdered Sean Luke. They have both pleaded not guilty.
It was determined that the trial will be held both virtually and in-person and two witnesses were identified to give evidence in an actual courtroom.
Mitchell and Chatoo will join the sittings by video link from the virtual court facilities at the Maximum Security Prison, in Arouca, where they are both remanded, since covid19 precautions prohibit prisoners from attending court.
Only two attorneys for each of the accused and the same number for the prosecution will be allowed in the courtroom. The media and public will also be allowed to view the sessions by video link.
Mitchell’s attorneys are expected to file an application to quash the indictment against him. It is also not certain if he will testify at this session, called a voir dire, at which the defence seeks to challenge the admissibility of certain prosecution evidence.
At the end of Mitchell’s voir dire, the judge will rule on the admissibility of the evidence challenged and then begin a similar exercise for Chatoo, after which the actual trial will begin.
At Chatoo’s voir dire, 14 witnesses are expected to give evidence, half of them virtually, while the other half will appear in person.
At Wednesday’s session, a tentative date for the start of the actual trial was set for March 15, but the judge said that was likely to change depending on the witnesses still to testify at the pre-trial session and if either Mitchell or Chatoo chose to give evidence at their voir dire.
When the trial does start, six witnesses have already been identified for in-person hearings and there are a few others whose evidence are likely to be taken in court. The rest will testify virtually.
Luke’s body was found in a sugar cane field near his home two days after he went missing. The six-year-old was sodomised with a sugar cane stalk which ruptured his intestines and other organs, and which caused his death from internal bleeding.
Mitchell was 13 when he was arrested and Chatoo was 15.
Mitchell and Chatoo are represented by attorneys Mario Merritt, Evans Welch, Kirby Joseph, Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez. Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Smith-Sandy are prosecuting.