3010599
Sean Luke

Derek Achong

The trial of two men accused of murdering six-year-old Sean Luke over a decade ago is set to kick off next month.

High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds set a tentative start date of March 15 while holding discussions with prosecutors and the duo’s defence team during a virtual hearing yesterday.

Ramsumair-Hinds noted that the time-line was dependant on her hearing and deciding pre-trial issues including the admissibility of the evidence of several contentious witnesses in the case.

Ramsumair-Hinds also began to discuss which witnesses would have to testify in-person at the San Fernando High Court or virtually. Under the Judiciary’s current COVID-19 policy, in-person hearings are only possible in limited circumstances with most witnesses testifying virtually from special facilities established during the pandemic.

The judge said that only two attorneys for each accused man and two prosecutors would be allowed in the physical courtroom. Members of the media, who are afforded a place in all open court hearings, will have to follow the case virtually.

During the previous hearing of the case, last Friday, Akeel Mitchell, now 28, and 30-year-old Richard Chatoo were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to murdering Luke on an unknown date between Match 25 and 29, 2006.

Luke’s body was found in a sugar cane field near his home at Orange Valley Road in Couva. An autopsy revealed that he was sodomized with a sugar cane stalk that ruptured his intestines and internal organs.

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.

Earlier this year, 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.

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