423212
Sean Luke

Lawyers representing the two accused of murdering Sean Luke have raised questions over the food and sleeping accommodation afforded to their clients before they were charged almost 14 years ago.

During a virtual pre-trial hearing of the case before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds, yesterday, Richard Chatoo’s lawyer Evans Welch continued to quiz police officers involved in the case over his client’s treatment in custody.

Welch interrogated several witnesses over the meals his client received, a mattress that he was given to sleep on and whether any of the then minors relatives were present.

Welch’s cross-examination also focused on whether his client was threatened or insulted.

The process is expected to continue when the case resumes on Wednesday.

Ramsumair-Hinds is currently hearing and considering voir dires pursued by both men.

In the pre-trial process, Ramsumair-Hinds will hear evidence over the treatment the accused, who were minors at the time, received in police custody to determine if statements allegedly given by them during interrogation were obtained freely and fairly.

Last week, Ramsumair-Hinds finished hearing evidence in Akeel Mitchell’s voir dire.

She is expected to rule on both voir dires before the judge-alone trial commences on March 15.

Luke went missing from his home at Orange Valley Road in Couva in March 2006 and his body was found in a nearby sugarcane field.

The high-profile case, which is still considered to be one of the most gruesome killings in recent history, has not been free of controversy.

Last month, Mitchell’s lawyers brought an application to stay the case based on the fact that a prosecutor, who was initially assigned to it, represented him before she joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The application was eventually dismissed by Ramsumair-Hinds, who criticised the prosecutor but ruled that the case was not prejudiced as she (the prosecutor) had minimal involvement up to that point.

Ramsumair-Hinds then rejected an application to quash the indictment against Mitchell due to insufficient evidence.

Ramsumair-Hinds has also been given the green light for a hybrid trial, in which some contentious witness will testify in person at a courthouse while the rest will testify virtually, both in accordance with the Judiciary’s ongoing practice directions for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mitchell is being represented by Mario Merritt, Kirby Joseph, and Randall Raphael, while Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez are also representing Chatoo. Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola, and Sophia Sandy-Smith are prosecuting.