The nation of Belize is still reeling from the cruel and gruesome murder of Pastor Llewelyn Lucas. Lucas’ head was found in the back of a truck belonging to Canadian William Mason; the rest of his body found burned on a ranch also belonging to Mason. The five men charged in the murder of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas were supposed to be taken to court on Monday afternoon at 1:30 in Belmopan to be read their charges. But when they got there, we are told that the Magistrate ordered their release because something was wrong with the fact sheet. However, reports are that police re-arrested them right away. They were then brought down to Belize City late Monday evening for arraignment, but reports from the Magistrate’s Court indicated that it did not happen as the court normally shuts at five and the caretaker was not around to open the courtroom. Finally, this morning, 46 year old William Mason, who has a number of aliases and is a businessman of Intelco Hill, Belmopan, along with 4 others, identified as Ashton Vanegas, 23, a Construction Worker of Camalote Village, Keiron Kenneth Fernandez, a Construction Worker of Roaring Creek Village, 20 year old Ernest Henry Castillo, a labourer of Roaring Creek Village and 30 year old Labourer, Terrence Fernandez, also of Roaring Creek Village, were arraigned on charges of murder, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. But the story goes far more than that. This morning’s match-up before Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith featured Herbert Panton for the defense and no less than Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams – last year called to the Bar – for the Department.
“I was contacted by the commissioner yesterday evening and was told to deal with the matter of the arraignment and concerning the fact that the defendants do have attorney in the presence of Mr. Panton and he had made certain submissions at the court in Belmopan; it is only right that we match the defense in providing and attorney as well to deal with the matter on the prosecution side. Hence the reason I was allowed to step in and represent the prosecution in the arraignment today. Well it has a lot to do with the inexperience of the prosecutor who appeared in Belmopan yesterday and there are certain matters that were raised by the defense that of legal implication and it was only right that we make legal submissions on those submissions that he made yesterday. Hence the reason I went and I did my legal research and came up with authority to guide the court as it relates the fact that he was saying there was not sufficient evidence when on the face of it there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to indicate that these 5 men are indeed responsible for the death of Mr. LLewellyn Lucas. I don’t think or I don’t want to say that there was any misstep yesterday. I guess that the police did an arraignment in Belmopan yesterday and it was done the way other arraignments have been done but because of the sensitive nature of the offence and the fact that these men have legal representation and Mr. Panton is right to make submissions on behalf of his client that’s what he’s paid to do. The court is also obliged to listen to his submissions and if the submissions do make sense, are of legal implication then the court must act accordingly and that’s what the court did yesterday.”
Williams said yesterday’s dismissal was according to the law and no more than anyone accused of such serious charges deserved. He said he is not sure whether he will be continuing with the case beyond today’s arraignment. Meanwhile, Panton, a former magistrate, who told us that his clients have been dragged around all day in a battle over jurisdiction, deserve a properly founded prosecution, which he believes are already underlined by a poor start to the investigation:
“If you can find any attorney who argues for argument sake; no there were two fundamental tenants to our submissions. One is that this matter was already adjudicated on so if you bring the same facts before the court it amounts to forum shopping and basically the same facts came before the court with a little addition here and there that did not in any way change the nature of the tenuous nature of the facts. And secondly what ought to happen is that the prosecution ought to be given their 14 day to get all their facts together. Well the chief magistrate has ruled so we wait for disclosure to see the evidence that the prosecution has against my client. Disclosure is set for the 7th of September so we see what happens then. It took me 9 hours before I was able to finally see those gentlemen. I was still not able to see 3 of them. I went back Sunday to San Ignacio police station to see those 2. Those 2 were in nothing more than boxers, nothing more than boxers the police still have not given them their clothes to put on since they were detained Friday night. There is one client who up to this very second I have not spoken to any at all. So the police can sit at these beautiful press conferences and speak about all the crime fighting measures that they are putting in place but if on the back end all they do is to breach the rights of the citizens; nothing that they put in place is going to work because everybody will continue to walk unless the police release that a man must be given his full constitutional rights.”
In relation to the allegations surrounding false documents and identity theft, Panton said he welcomes a further investigation. No plea was taken by Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith since the offenses are indictable and due to the nature of the offense, they were all remanded to the Belize Central Prison until September 7, 2016. The court has agreed upon a date of September 7, 2016 for the men’s next court appearance while case management was agreed upon for October 6, 2016. A date has not yet been agreed upon for preliminary inquiry because case management must be done first to see where the case will go and if there is sufficient evidence against the men for the case to proceed any further.