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‘Mason Five’ kidnapping trial delayed due to jury concerns

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Posted: Monday, July 4, 2022. 10:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: On Monday the men convicted of the murder of Llewelyn Lucas – William Danny Mason, Ashton Vanegas, Terrence Fernandez, and Ernest Castillo – returned to the Supreme Court in Belmopan to face separate charges for the alleged kidnapping of Mennonite couple Lloyd Thiessen and his wife in the Belmopan area on May 31, 2016.

But according to the attorney for one of the men, Norman Rodriguez, a trial could not begin before Supreme Court Justice Francis Cumberbatch because of concerns with the empanelment of a nine-member jury. (Judge-only trials are reserved for murder and certain sexual offenses at present).

“Today there were 42 [jury members] on a list; only 24 presented themselves before the court. One of the concerns raised by the Senior Counsel is that since every defendant can object to five of those people – just a normal objection if you don’t want them on the panel – object to five of them and since there are five defendants, he was saying there should be 25, five for each defendant and nine [more],” attorney Norman Rodriguez told reporters afterward, also noting that jury members were inadvertently exposed to part of the process of the case.

As a result, the current jury’s life must be extinguished, which happens this month, and a new jury must be selected from a panel in September. Following further discussions on case management issues, a further hearing has been scheduled for July 20 and 21.

Rodriguez also noted that he is pursuing on behalf of his client Ashton Vanegas an appeal of his murder conviction to the Court of Appeal. While he awaits the outcome, Rodriguez said, Vanegas has so far been able to keep out of trouble, but he hopes for freedom soon.

Each of the five are serving life in prison with set terms before application for parole; if found guilty in this case, additional prison terms would be prescribed, though it is not yet decided if it will be consecutive or concurrent with the time being served for murder.

 

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