GUILTY verdicts have been passed on the two men on trial for the brutal murder of six-year-old Sean Luke in 2006.
Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds delivered the verdicts on Friday against Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo, both of whom were teenagers when they were arrested and charged for Luke’s murder.
“I weighed up all evidence globally and drew strands together from all the facts," the judge said. "I found that it all led to all inescapable inference, not...speculation.”
She said the killing was a planned, frenzied assault on Luke.
Mitchell, she said, buggered Luke, while Chatoo assisted and encouraged him, after which Mitchell sodomised Luke with a cane stalk.
She said Luke would have been in excruciating agony.
She told both men, “I find you guilty.”
It was alleged that on a date unknown, between March 25 and 29, 2006, in Orange Valley, Couva the two men murdered Sean Luke. They were charged jointly on the single indictment.
Chatoo, now 31, was 16 when he was arrested and charged. Mitchell, now 29, was weeks shy of 14.
The judge has fixed August 23 for sentencing. The men are likely to be sentenced at the court’s pleasure with a minimum sentence and periods of review fixed by the judge.
The death penalty cannot be imposed on those who were minors when they committed a crime and the judge said the law was clear, advising people not to clamour for the death penalty.
Mitchell and Chatoo had opted for a judge-only trial.
Ramsumair-Hinds provided her reasons for arriving at her verdict 14 days after the end of closing addresses, in keeping with the provisions of the legislation governing such trials.
She was also required by law to provide written reasons for coming to her verdict as the judge of the facts and law.
It took three hours for her to give her reasons. Friday’s reading of the verdict was streamed live on the Judiciary’s website. The video feed of the two men, who followed the judge’s ruling from the Maximum Security Prison virtual court facility, was not shown on the live stream, as ordered by the judge.
The State’s case rested mainly on circumstantial evidence, which featured the testimony of two other boys who said they last saw Luke enter the cane field where his body was found with Mitchell and Chatoo; the DNA evidence from the sperm fraction pointing to Mitchell; and the boy’s body found sodomised with a cane stalk, approximately 12 joints long, as described by Chatoo in his statement to the police.
Mitchell’s DNA profile was found on Luke’s underwear, but none of Chatoo’s was found on either Luke’s clothing or the piece of cane stalk, which ruptured his internal organs, causing his death.
On the day Luke went missing – March 26, 2006 – Chatoo said an older neighbour, Avinash Baboolal, asked if he wanted to go fishing with him and another boy from the area, Arvis Pradeep.
Both Baboolal and Pradeep testified for the prosecution, claiming Chatoo and Mitchell took Luke into the cane field. Neither saw Luke return.
State pathologist Dr Eslyn McDonald-Burris, who admitted the case still traumatised her, said the cause of death was “internal chest and abdominal injuries and haemorrhage due to a foreign object – a cane stalk – introduced into the body cavity.”
Luke’s body was found in the field near his home two days after he went missing.
Both men denied killing Luke. Mitchell raised an alibi and Chatoo alleged the statements he gave to the police, in which he implicated himself and Mitchell, were fabricated by the police and adduced as a result of oppression, trickery, force and inducement.
Chatoo testified. Mitchell did not.
In her ruling, the judge said she rejected their evidence and found as a fact that Luke was buggered and sodomised with the cane stalk and both men participated in the enterprise with the intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.
She said death happened during a few frenzied moments between 3pm and 6 pm, and Luke’s death came within minutes of the insertion of the cane stalk into his body.
Mitchell, she said, had the intention to commit murder when “he pushed the cane stalk until it had nowhere else to go,” while Chatoo intentionally assisted.
On at least three occasions, both before and after the trial started, the judge had been asked to rule on separate applications by Mitchell to permanently stay or quash his indictment. She declined, saying there was no risk to a fair trial for either man. She also overruled a no-case submission advanced for Mitchell by his attorneys.
Mitchell and Chatoo were represented by attorneys Mario Merritt, Evans Welch, Kirby Joseph, Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez.
Assistant DPP Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Smith-Sandy prosecuted.