A High Court Judge has deferred her decision on a stay of the trial of two men accused of the brutal murder of Sean Luke.
High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds was expected to deliver her decision on the application, which may potentially lead to one or two of the men accused of the heinous crime walking free without going on trial, during a virtual hearing yesterday.
However, when the case was called, Ramsumair-Hinds said that she needed additional submissions from prosecutors to come up with her ruling in the high-profile case.
Ramsumair-Hinds gave prosecutors until next Monday to file their submissions and said she would deliver her ruling on February 1.
It’s the second such deferral, as the judge was expected to originally give her decision on January 18.
In the application, lawyers representing Akeel Mitchell took issue with the fact that the prosecutor appointed for the case had represented him briefly before joining the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The prosecutor reportedly did not disclose the conflict of interest during her numerous appearances in the case and only accepted responsibility after it was pointed out that the transcripts from the preliminary inquiry in the case showed that she had cross-examined a witness on Mitchell’s behalf.
Mitchell’s legal team then filed an application for a permanent stay of the case against their client as they questioned whether the prosecutor had disclosed privileged information, obtained from her confidential interactions with him to her colleagues, who were assigned to replace her after the issue was raised.
During yesterday’s hearing, Ramsumair-Hinds questioned the fact that Mitchell, 28, and his 30-year-old co-accused Richard Chatoo continued to be remanded at the Youth Training and Rehabilitation Centre (YTC) although they had turned 18 while awaiting the trial.
Ramsumair-Hinds claimed that there were issues with hosting the judge-alone trial virtually as the centre has limited video conferencing facilities.
Responding to the inquiry, Mitchell’s lawyer Mario Merritt said that the policy of allowing the duo, who are accused of committing the crime as teenagers, was set by prison officials.
He also warned that his client would be unsafe if he is placed in the general adult prison population based on historical attacks on inmates, accused of heinous crimes against women and children.
“The matter is one that evokes strong emotions, even now,” Merritt said. Chatoo’s lawyer Evans Welch concurred.
Prosecutor Sabrina Dougdeen expressed concern over the potential delay if Ramsumair-Hinds decides against the stay, but noted that she had dealt with other cases in which juvenile offenders remained at the facility after becoming adults due to safety concerns.
After the discussion, Ramsumair-Hinds agreed to leave the arrangement in place.
Sean Luke’s body was found in a sugar cane field near his home at Orange Valley Road in Couva in March 2006.
The six-year-old had been sodomized with a sugar cane stalk that ruptured his intestines and internal organs.
Mitchell and Chatoo were charged with the crime.
Luke’s murder sparked public outrage and is still considered to be one of the most gruesome killings in recent history.
Mitchell and Chatoo are also being represented by Kirby Joseph and Randall Raphael. Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are also prosecuting.