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Mar 22, 2019

Danny Mason’s Trial is Adjourned; Attorney Panton Says He Removed Himself from the Case

The high profile trial for William “Danny” Mason and company has been adjourned because he needs new legal representation after attorneys Herbert Panton and Rachel Montejo stepped away from the case. When the trial started last week, attorney Dickie Bradley also withdrew representation.  Several persons have been called to the witness stand including Lucas’ relatives, Mason’s employees, Pastor Richard Smith and multiple police officers. Today, the press was shut out from the proceedings inside the courtroom, but managed to speak briefly with attorney Panton when he exited the Supreme Court in Belmopan. Reporter Andrea Polanco was in the Capital today and files this report.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

By nine this morning the heavy presence of armed guards around the Supreme Court in Belmopan signaled the presence of William Danny Mason and the four other accused of the murder of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas.  To those following the trial it was just another day in the continuation of the high profile case that started earlier this month. But unlike the past several days, today reporters were not allowed inside the courtroom nor anywhere on the court building during the proceedings. And less than an hour later we found out that the trial had been adjourned and that Mason and company no longer had an attorney. And so before ten o’clock, Attorney Herbert Panton exited the Supreme Court where he was asked if his clients had fired him.

 

Herbert Panton

Herbert Panton, Former Attorney for William “Danny” Mason

“Totally untrue. What happened yesterday is that I made an application to court to be relieved of the defense of the five accused. That matter started today and that application continued and the judge just a while ago concluded that application process and granted my application. So, myself and Ms Montejo are no longer representing the five accused. As a consequence, the matter has been adjourned, I believe sometime in the first week in April just to give the accused the time to find new counsel and the time and the trial will proceed from there.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“You are making it absolutely clear today that this was not a request from your clients because you were not taking their instructions?”

 

Herbert Panton

“This was an application made by myself to the court to be relieved from defending the five accused.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, as of today you are no longer seeing them, taking any calls or anything?”

 

Herbert Panton

“That is correct.”

 

So, Panton says he removed himself and when pressed for a reason as to why he ditched his clients in the middle of this high profile murder case he wouldn’t disclose. So, what does that mean for William Mason and his alleged accomplices? The court gave the alleged killers about two weeks to find new lawyers after which the criminal trial will resume.  Since the news of Panton’s departure from the case, many have speculated it may lead to a mistrial or jeopardize what has happened over the past week since the trial started.  Here’s what he had to say about those assumptions.

 

Reporter

“Would you care to share with us your reasons for asking to be removed, sir?”

 

Herbert Panton

“Well, I am still bound by my oath so what I discuss with my client is not for public consumption.”

 

Reporter

“Sir, there are concerns that this will lead to a mistrial in this case, can you comment on that?”

 

Herbert Panton

“Well, the judge has said that the trial will continue. She did not declare a mistrial so that is not on the table at this point.”

 

Llewellyn Lucas

Reporter

“Can this particular decision by yourself and Ms Montejo from the trial lead to that particular outcome?”

 

Herbert Panton

“Well, I can’t speak to what will happen now.  I am no longer involved.”

 

Panton has been the lead attorney on the case after William Danny Mason, Terrence Fernandez, Keiron Fernandez, Ashton Vanegas, and Ernest Castillo were jointly charged for the beheading of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas in July of 2016. Since the trial started as many as seventeen witnesses have taken the stand to testify including Acting Deputy Commissioner Russell Blackett, Pastor Richard Smith and relatives of the deceased. Over the past nine days, several new pieces of information were shared, including surveillance footage that shows Lucas and the two others at Mason’s house. The videos also show a man identified as Lucas being escorted away by two persons, one of whom appeared to have a big knife in his hands as he walked behind Lucas. The video also showed the other two persons blindfolded and bound in the pan of Mason’s Ford 150pickup after which Mason got into the driver’s seat.  Also in court, earlier this week, it was being determined if a caution statement from accused Ernest Castillo would be allowed into evidence. As we’ve reported, Castillo has allegedly taken the rap for the murder. But defense argued that Castillo’s statement was given under duress and that proper procedures were not followed when the statement was taken. The prosecution, however, countered that Castillo gave the caution statement of his own free will. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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