sEAN lUKE

Sean Luke with his mom Pauline Bharat

GUILTY as charged.

It took more than 15 years, a trial that spanned just over two months and the testimonies of 38 State witnesses for the boys , now men, who were prosecuted by the State in connection with the brutal death of Sean Luke, six, to be found guilty of his murder.

Just after 1 p.m., on Friday, Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds delivered her verdicts in the judge-alone trial, saying she was satisfied the State was able to provide sufficient, compelling and cogent evidence for Akeel Mitchell, 29, and Richard Chatoo, 31, to be convicted of the capital offence.

Given that the two were just minors when the crime was committed, they will not be made to face the death sentence. Instead, their attorneys will have to present their plea in mitigation in an attempt to urge the court to exercise leniency in passing sentence.

The submissions will be presented in writing and sentence will be passed on August 23.

Mitchell and Chatoo were accused of killing the boy in a cane field just metres away from his Henry Street, Orange Valley Trace, Couva, home on the afternoon of March 26, 2006.

At the time, Mitchell, Chatoo and Luke along with some other boys from the area were on their way to a fishing trip at a pond. Getting to that pond required them to walk through the cane field. But while on their way, the State contended that Mitchell and Chatoo diverted off course with Luke before he was sexually assaulted and sodomised with a cane stalk that was pushed all the way to his right shoulder.

It was an act that would have caused the child to experience extreme agony for as little as one minute up to half-an-hour said forensic pathologist Dr Estlyn McDonald-Burris when she testified in May.

In delivering her verdicts, the judge said she had no doubt that Mitchell and Chatoo had planned to assault and caused grievous bodily harm to the boy resulting in his death.

I am sure that accused number one (Mitchell) and accused number two (Chatoo) planned to harm Sean Luke. Their plan to go on the fishing trip provided them with an opportunity. I am sure what happened in the cane was a frenzied assault. I am sure that accused number one buggered Sean Luke before sodomising him with the cane stalk.

I believe that number two was covering Sean Luke's mouth making him an accessory to the crime. I believe that accused number one, immediately after discharging, sodomised Sean Luke with the cane to cause grievous bodily harm. Why? Because of the length of the cane and the depth of the penetration," stated the judge.

She went on to say she was certain without a shadow of a doubt that Mitchell pushed the cane stalk in Luke's body "until it had nowhere else to go" and in order to do so, Chatoo loaned his assistance.

"I believe the scream Avinash Baboolal heard was the sound of the intense agony Sean Luke was facing. In an attempt to incapacitate him, accused number two placed his hand over Sean Luke’s mouth and neck," she said.

Scientific evidence also revealed sperm cells that matched Mitchell’s DNA profile was found on the child’s underwear.

Mitchell’s attorneys however, denied their client had any role in the killing or was even present when the murder took place.

They suggested while scientific evidence showed the presence of Mitchell’s DNA on his underwear, science could not prove for how long it had been there, suggesting that he could have been sexually assaulted hours or even days before his death.

It is for this reason that even if it is to be believed that Luke was sexually assaulted by Mitchell, it is insufficient to convict him of murder, they argued in their closing submissions.

Attorneys for Chatoo on the other hand, said while their client gave a confession statement to police following his arrest that implicated both him and Mitchell, they suggested he was tricked, coached and coerced into doing so.

They argued that Chatoo, who was just 16-years old at the time, was promised by investigators that if he were to give the statement he would have been allowed to walk free and not be charged with the crime.

At the trial, Chatoo testified he simply went along with what police told him to say since he believed he would have been allowed leave the station, but instead the officers went back on their promise.

He also denied Mitchell had any role to play in the murder.

The two were represented by attorneys Mario Merritt, Evans Welch, Randall Raphael, Kelston Pope, Kirby Joseph and Gabriel Hernandez.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith appeared on behalf of the State.

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