New sentencing date for Sean Luke's killers: judge needs more time

Sean Luke -
Sean Luke -

THE two men convicted of the brutal murder of six-year-old Sean Luke in 2006 will now be sentenced on September 10.

Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds, who found Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo guilty of murder in a judge-only trial on July 23, set the new date for the sentencing on Monday.

She was expected to sentence the two, who were teenagers when they were arrested and charged for Luke’s murder, on Monday.

However, she said she appreciated that attorneys might have been rushed to file their written submissions in time on Sunday, when they only received the prison’s bio-social report for both men on Friday.

She also said she needed assistance in marrying the principles set out in the case of Chuck Attin – who was a teenager when he was convicted of a similar brutal murder – and sentencing guidelines set out in the case of Aguilera, which judges are urged to abide by.

The case of Chuck Attin provides for minors to be sentenced at the court’s pleasure, with a minimum term being set as a punitive measure, and periodic periods of review, while Aguilera sets out the steps judges must take in arriving at a sentence.

In the latter, they must indicate their starting point and then consider the mitigating and aggravating factors of both the offender and the crime before calculating a final sentence.

Ramsumair-Hinds pointed out that the Aguilera principles did not provide a starting point for a murder conviction, since the death penalty is the automatic sentence for the capital offence.

“…The court is being asked to come up with a suitable term of years for murder where that is not open to it in this jurisdiction by operation of the law.

“…This is somewhat of a categorisation of murder.

“We are asking the courts to pluck a number for somewhere to come up with a starting point for persons who were under 18 and convicted of murder,” she said.

Both Mitchell and Chatoo will receive a 15-year discount for time already served, but the judge pointed out that there was a disparity in the starting points suggested by the defence and the prosecution.

Mitchell’s attorneys suggested a starting point of 18-20 years and Chatoo’s 15-18 years. The prosecution suggested 30-35 years.

“I have to reconcile the disparity before coming to the minimum,” the judge said. “Some assistance is required in the fixing as the minimum term in relation to sentencing persons who were convicted of murder where death sentence cannot be pronounced.”

While acknowledging that the two have already filed notices of appeal –albeit with no supporting grounds, as yet – the judge said, “It is important to me to get it right at the start.”

She also raised an issue in the bio-social reports as it related to the probability of either man recidivating (reoffending), saying the assessment supplied to the court was more than seven years’ old.

As she invited the attorneys if they wanted a more updated report, she warned, “If you agree, I will use the more recent report and you will not be able to use the lower figure…You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

Attorneys for both men agreed on a more recent report and the prosecution was asked to consider putting together a victim impact statement in time for sentencing on September 10.

When she delivered her verdict in July, Ramsumair-Hinds said Luke’s killing was a planned and frenzied assault. Mitchell, she said, buggered Luke, while Chatoo assisted and encouraged him, after which Mitchell sodomised Luke with a cane stalk.

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.

Mitchell’s DNA profile was found on Luke’s underwear, but none of Chatoo’s was found on either Luke’s clothing or the cane stalk, which ruptured his internal organs, causing his death.

At their virtual trial, both men denied killing Luke. Mitchell raised an alibi and Chatoo alleged the police fabricated the statements he gave to the police, in which he implicated himself and Mitchell, and that they were adduced as a result of oppression, trickery, force and inducement.

Chatoo testified. Mitchell did not.

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.


"New sentencing date for Sean Luke’s killers: judge needs more time"

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