Posted: Friday, September 13, 2019. 4:10 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: This week, it was the defense’s turn in the murder trial of William “Danny” Mason and four co-accused for the alleged murder by beheading of pastor and businessman Llewellyn Lucas.
Under Belizean law, adjudged innocent until proven guilty by the court, the accused can choose to remain silent; give unsworn and lesser-valued testimony from the prisoner dock, or give sworn testimony from the witness stand, where they can be cross-examined.
Ashton Vanegas, Terrence Fernandez, and Ernest Castillo exercised their right to remain silent – which is neither admission nor denial, though they stand by their pleas of not guilty.
The burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt always falls on the prosecution and by extension the Crown.
On Monday, Keiron Fernandez, represented by Bryan Neal, spoke from the dock and denied knowledge or involvement in Lucas’ death.
According to Keiron Fernandez, when he was picked up at Sanchos’ Bar with his fellow co-accused after Pastor Lucas’ head was discovered in the pan of Mason’s pickup truck, they were socializing on a payday Friday.
Fernandez specifically denied kidnap, murder, knowledge of any kidnap or murder, knowledge of the head inside the bucket in the truck pan (whether before or after his arrest until he saw the gruesome pictures in discovery) and said the Mason truck had not been searched with him present. The father of four swore this is not something he would ever do.
On Thursday it was Mason’s turn, and he too chose to give unsworn testimony.
The court saw video footage captured from the surveillance system at Mason’s Intelco Hill, Belmopan, home, which clearly showed when Pastor Lucas and his companions arrived, and when 3 persons – believed to be Lucas and the other 2 men – were apparently kidnapped.
A man who resembled Mason jumped into a black pickup truck that the kidnapping victims were thrown into, and that man drove away from Mason’s house. Then, there is the discovery of Pastor Lucas’ head in the pan of Mason’s pick up later that night.
But Mason, who says he worked with Lucas as a “representative of his commercial interests in Belize,” specifically livestock and agriculture, said they met on July 15, 2016 to discuss certain threats to Lucas, who had not shown up to work for a month. Lucas also asked to borrow money, Mason said, but he deferred a decision on that for later in the day and Lucas left; it was supposedly the last time they saw each other.
Mason, who insisted Lucas was his friend, said he spent the day on the ranch working until he was called to socialize at a Belmopan bar, where Police aggressed him and demanded to search his truck.
According to Mason, he witnessed something removed from the back of his truck at the compound but was not addressed directly until then Assistant Commissioner of Police, now retired, Russell Blackett, told him that the head was in his vehicle.
Mason formally denied any involvement and said through brief tears that the news, then and now, was a shock and led to years of vilification, defamation and lost income.
Mason is expected to call one witness, an employee of the United States Embassy, to support his statement but a decision will be taken by the court due to certain issues.
Closing arguments will follow and then presiding Justice Antoinette Moore is expected to take some time to make her decision.
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