Judge shoots down second attempt to stop Sean Luke trial

Sean Luke -
Sean Luke -

ANOTHER attempt to stop the trial of one of the men charged with the 2006 murder of six-year-old Sean Luke has been shot down by the judge presiding over the case.

Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds on Monday ruled on a new application by attorneys for Akeel Mitchell to quash the indictment against him.

Last month, the judge dismissed an application to permanently stay the indictment because of a blunder by a prosecution attorney.

In the latest application, Mitchell’s attorneys argued there was insufficient evidence against him. They claim the prosecution’s case against Mitchell was based mainly on “circumstantial and speculative” evidence of two witnesses, and the foundation for “joint enterprise” on culpability was not set out.

In her ruling, Ramsumair-Hinds said the defence had sought to make a no-case submission before the close of the prosecution’s case.

The actual trial has not yet started, as the court is engaged in a process called a voir dire, in which the defence challenges the admissibility of the prosecution’s evidence.

Ramsumair-Hinds pointed out that the defence did not suggest there was no evidence, but, after examining their perspective on the weight of the evidence, engaged in a “premature analysis usually reserved for a no-case submission.

“The defence has not challenged the Indictment itself as being defective in form or content…The defence seeks to have the indictment quashed entirely and exclusively on the basis that the evidence on deposition is insufficient...The only basis for me to turn my attention to the sufficiency of the evidence would be in the very narrow context where the accused has been indicted for an offence for which he had not been committed. That does not apply,” the judge said.

Mitchell, 28, and 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. Mitchell was 13 when he was arrested and Chatoo was 15.

At Monday’s session, two former police officers testified from one of the courtrooms at the San Fernando High Court.

The judge, her staff, two attorneys for the prosecution and two for Mitchell were physically in the courtroom. Everyone else, including the two accused, joined the sitting virtually. Covid19 court rules prohibit prisoners from attending court.

All witnesses and attorneys are required to fill out screening forms to enter the courthouse, and witnesses were provided with gloves before they handled any piece of evidence. Everyone was also physically distanced, in keeping with covid19 protocols.

After the judge rules on the admissibility of evidence for Mitchell, the voir dire for Chatoo will begin. Mitchell will not give evidence at the voir dire, his attorney Mario Merritt said on Monday.

The trial is expected to begin on March 15.

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.

At a previous hearing, prosecutors admitted that the State was still to get DNA results in the case, although they were hoping to apply to admit the evidence if they receive the results of the analysis of the samples sent for testing in 2006.

Mitchell and Chatoo are represented by attorneys Mario Merritt, Evans Welch, Kirby Joseph, Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez. Attorneys Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are prosecuting.


"Judge shoots down second attempt to stop Sean Luke trial"

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