The eagerly awaited trial of two men, accused of murdering Sean Luke when they were teenagers, is set to kick off later this month.
The judge-alone trial was initially carded to start before High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds last month, but was put off by pre-trial legal applications over the admissibility of statements the duo alleged made to police before being charged.
Ramsumair-Hinds set a new trial date of April 19 after the last witness testified in relation to the applications, during a virtual hearing yesterday afternoon.
Without revealing the outcome of the legal challenges mounted by both men’s attorneys, which she is yet to rule on, Ramsumair-Hinds warned both prosecutors and defence attorneys to be prepared to start the case on that date.
Luke went missing near his home at Orange Valley Road in Couva in March 2006.
Two days later, his body was found in a sugar cane field near his home.
The six-year-old had been sodomised with a sugar cane stalk.
Akeel Mitchell, now 28, and 30-year-old Richard Chatoo were charged with the crime as teenagers.
Since Ramsumair-Hinds began managing the case last year, there have been several challenges that threatened to derail it.
Firstly, 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 the accused men briefly before joining the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
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.
Ramsumair-Hinds referred her ruling on Lyons-Edwards’ conduct to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) for an investigation.
Ramsumair-Hinds then rejected an application to quash the indictment against Mitchell due to insufficient evidence against him.
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.