Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2020. 7:46 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Four of the five men convicted in December for the murder of Llewelyn Lucas re-appeared in the Belmopan Supreme Court this morning for a different, though related matter.
William “Danny” Mason; Kieron Fernandez; Ernest Castillo and Ashton Vanegas were joined by Ryan Rhaburn for what was to have been a case management conference for the pending trial on kidnapping charges before Supreme Court Justice Francis Cumberbatch. The men are accused of kidnapping a Canadian couple weeks before the killing of Lucas, allegedly at Mason’s George Price Highway ranch.
But it had to be postponed as Fernandez, Castillo, and Mason were without legal representation. Vanegas is represented by Norman Rodriguez and Rhaburn by Senior Counsel Simeon Sampson.
Mason’s former attorney, Guyanese Dexter Todd, sent a letter to the court to inform that he is no longer representing Mason in court. Other counsel have left the case as well.
Justice Cumberbatch informed the accused that they had two options: represent themselves in court, which is usually frowned on but allowed, or seek new representation, which they agreed to do.
Mason formally requested full disclosure to peruse while in the process of seeking another lawyer.
The case resumes on Wednesday, March 18, and all except for Rhaburn who is out on bail were remanded to Belize Central Prison.
Attorney Rodriguez explained that, as announced at the opening of the Supreme Court last week, Justice Cumberbatch replaces Justice Antoinette Moore, who has been transferred to Dangriga.
She, however, will preside over the forthcoming sentencing of Mason, Castillo, Vanegas and Kieron and Terrence Fernandez, which is also set for March.
Rodriguez says the sentencing will have no effect on the timeline for the kidnapping case, except, perhaps, for affecting public sentiment.
The court could sentence all five to death if the murder is found to be Class A under the Criminal Code, or fits the standard of the “worst of the worst” or “rarest of the rare” established in the 2002 appeal of Patrick Reyes to the Privy Council, which also outlawed mandatory death sentences.
If the Crown does not ask for the death penalty, then the sentence is life in prison, recently amended to allow for a limited time spent behind bars before appealing for parole.
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