Sean Luke

Murder victim: Sean Luke

FOR a second time yesterday the High Court dismissed an application to have the case against one of the men accused of murdering six-year-old Sean Luke discontinued.

Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds shot down the application by attorneys representing Akeel Mitchell, who argued there was insufficient evidence against their client.

During a hearing at the San Fernando High Court the judge dismissed the application by a team of attorneys led by Mario Merritt on behalf of Mitchell, saying in the circumstances of the case, she had no jurisdiction to assess the sufficiency of the evidence presented at the Magistrates’ Court during the preliminary enquiry.

But even if she did, the judge said based on the facts of the case, the application would have failed nonetheless.

In their application, the attorneys argued the evidence against Mitchell was based on two witnesses and that it was circumstantial and amounted to speculation. They also argued there were certain discrepancies in the evidence of those witnesses.

Further, the attorneys argued the State has laid no foundation for the application of the doctrine of joint enterprise as it related to the culpability of Mitchell in the killing.

The prosecution, on the other hand, disagreed with the defence’s submissions as to the strength of the evidence against Mitchell.

Its submissions detailed the evidence the prosecutors said is revealed on the papers and with no doubt would have been the basis first upon which the magistrate would have committed Mitchell to stand trial and secondly, they relied upon the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) preferring the indictment against the accused.

Friday ruling

It was just last month that Justice Ramsumair-Hinds dismissed another application by Merritt and his juniors that the prosecution against Mitchell be stayed.

In that application, the attorneys spoke of the peculiar circumstance in which the attorney who was initially appointed by the DPP’s Office to prosecute Mitchell and his co-accused Richard Chatoo, was the same attorney who represented Mitchell during the preliminary enquiry.

Given this, Merritt argued it was not known whether that attorney, Maria Lyons-Edwards, had obtained and provided any sensitive information to the other prosecutors regarding his client’s innocence or guilt.

Following the dismissal of the latest application, the court then embarked on a voir dire hearing in which two former police officers were called to testify.

The purpose of the voir dire is for the court to determine exactly what evidence will be allowed at the actual trial when it does begin. It is expected that the trial may start sometime next month.

Those two witnesses testified in-person at the San Fernando High Court. However, in keeping with Covid-19 protocols, not all of the attorneys in the matter were allowed in the courtroom.

Instead, measures were put in place for the other attorneys and members of the media to view the proceedings virtually.

On Friday, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds is expected to deliver her ruling in the voir dire as it relates to Mitchell on Friday.

Mitchell, 28, and Chatoo, 30, are both accused of murdering Luke in March 2006.

His body was found in a cane field in Couva not far from where he lived.

An autopsy concluded he died from massive internal injuries after he was sodomised with a cane stalk.