A serious instance of prosecutorial misconduct was not enough to derail the trial of two men accused of the brutal murder of Sean Luke.
Delivering a 22-page decision yesterday afternoon, High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds dismissed an application for a permanent stay of the case, which was based on the fact that the assigned prosecutor had represented one of accused men briefly before joining the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“There is no evidence of a real risk of direct/inadvertent disclosure of confidential information and therefore no basis upon which it can be said that a fair trial is an impossibility,” Ramsumair-Hinds said.
While Ramsumair-Hinds strongly criticised prosecutor Maria Lyons-Edwards’ conduct in failing to disclose her conflict of interest at a preliminary stage, she stated that there was no evidence that it had the potential to taint the work of the prosecution team that was eventually assigned to replace her, as they all attested that they did not discuss the case with her.
“Certainly, the conduct of Mrs Lyons-Edwards offends the court and warrants some scrutiny. However, a stay should not be ordered for the purpose of disciplining prosecutorial misconduct,” she said, as she described the risk of the case being prejudiced as theoretical and fanciful.
Ramsumair-Hinds also criticised Lyons-Edwards for seeking to continue in the case even after defence attorneys raised the issue, describing her actions as “defying professional logic”.
“How can any advocate lie so brazenly to a court?…Why was it even necessary to lie about this?” Ramsumair-Hinds said.
Despite the decision on the stay of the case, Ramsumair-Hinds said Lyons-Edwards’ conduct could not be condoned or ignored through inaction.
She ordered that her decision and the case files be forwarded to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) and DPP Roger Gaspard, SC, for an investigation to be launched into the case.
“It surprises me that I need to type these words, but I remind counsel that an attorney- at- law shall never knowingly mislead the court nor shall they knowingly represent falsely to a Judge that a particular state of facts exists,” Ramsumair-Hinds said.
“If I have to tell you where that is from then you need to go back to law school,” she added.
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.
Akeel Mitchell, now 28, and 30-year-old Richard Chatoo were charged with the crime as teenagers.
Luke’s murder sparked public outrage and is still considered to be one of the most gruesome killings in recent history.
After delivering her ruling on the stay, Ramsumair-Hinds sought to deal with the fact that the duo remained remanded at Youth Training and Rehabilitation Centre (YTC) although they are no longer minors.
Ramsumair-Hinds told the parties that the Supreme Court Registrar had contacted the Prisons Commissioner, who said that the Prison Service was previously barred from reassigning them to an appropriate adult facility by a longstanding court order.
Although Ramsumair-Hinds noted that she was unable to order the Prison Service to place the duo at any particular facility she reversed the previous order which compelled their remand at YTC, leaving it open to the Prison Commissioner to make the determination.
Mitchell is being represented by Mario Merritt, Randall Raphael, and Kirby Joseph, while Evans Welch, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez are representing Chatoo.
The case is being prosecuted by Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith.