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Dec 2, 2019

A Decision in Sensational Mason Murder Trial is Nigh Upon Us

The local trial of the century comes to close on Tuesday when Justice Antoinette Moore will be handing down a decision. The highly connected William “Danny” Mason and four accused men are charged with the beheading of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas and after five weeks of submissions earlier this year, they will learn their fate on Tuesday on whether they will return to prison or will be released as free men.  The case has been captivating the attention of the nation since 2016 when Pastor Lucas’ head was found in a bucket in Mason’s truck while he and his friends partied at a bar in Belmopan. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A decision in the murder trial of William “Danny” Mason is expected to be handed down by the Supreme Court on Tuesday in Belmopan.  Justice Antoinette Moore, who is presiding over the matter, will deliver a ruling after a little over five weeks of deliberation.  Mason and four others, including brothers Kieron and Terrence Fernandez, Ernest Castillo and Ashton Vanegas, are facing lengthy prison sentences should they be found guilty of the July 2016 beheading of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas.  The case continues to attract extensive media coverage as it is arguably the most high-profile matter of its kind to go before the courts.

Since their arraignment for the capital offense, the men have been sitting on remand at the Belize Central Prison for the past three years.  Their fate, collectively, rests on the strength of arguments put forward by their attorneys.  In looking back at the progress of the trial, it is important to note that there was an abrupt change in legal representation for Mason and his co-defendants, following the departure of lead counsel Herbert Panton on March twenty-second.


Herbert Panton

Herbert Panton, Former Attorney for William ‘Danny’ Mason [File: March 22nd, 2019]

“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 trial will proceed from there.”


When the trial resumed in mid-May, Guyanese attorney Dexter Todd had been called to the bar and would proceed thereafter to represent Mason.


Dexter Todd

Dexter Todd, Attorney for William ‘Danny’ Mason [File: May 14th, 2019]

“My career in law spans maybe over seventeen, eighteen years.  I was a former police officer back in Guyana and I have done a lot of prosecuting work.  I still do operate as a special prosecutor for the state in Guyana.  But I am defense counsel.  I have had some of the most, I believe, interesting case that have afforded me an opportunity to represent in time.  I have always viewed the law as an opportunity, [by] this I mean an opportunity in representing clients, an opportunity to really enforce the law and to really ensure that justice is served.”


Court appointed counsel for the four co-accused included attorneys Brian Neal and Norman Rodriguez and the Crown was represented by Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lyn Vidal.  Notwithstanding a full replacement of the battery of lawyers, the case was subsequently adjourned on a number of occasions.  Following an extended break, the case resumed with a voir dire, a trial within a trial, on July eleventh.


Bryan Neal

Bryan Neal, Attorney at Law [File: July 18th, 2019]

“It is a major development because we’ve been in this voir dire going over two weeks now.  So it is good news for the trial now that the trial will continue now that the voir dire is completed.  The judge has received judgment and she will give her ruling in the morning at nine-thirty.  The ruling will determine whether or not the statement given by Mr. Castillo, one of the defendants, is admitted into evidence against him.”


Fast-forward to September twelfth and Mason is on the stand where he tearfully testifies in open court about his friendship with the slain Christian minister.  In an unsworn statement, Mason described his familiarity with Pastor Lucas whom he is accused of decapitating at his ranch near La Democracia.  Following the testimony, attorney Norman Rodriguez outlined the remaining steps.


Norman Rodriguez

Norman Rodriguez, Attorney at Law [File: September 12th, 2019]

“There will be the closing then the decision and since Mr. Mason is calling a witness then he will do his closing, the D.P.P. will do her closing in relation to that and also to the case against the other four accused and then the other four who gave dock statements or remained silent, they will give their closing.  Then, of course, the judge, as the judge of the facts and the jury itself will give the decision.”


After several weeks of attempting to secure a witness statement from a U.S. federal agent, Mason was successful.  During the written testimony, the agent who was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan at the time of Lucas’ murder stated that Mason informed him that he, Danny Mason, real name Rajesh Ouelette, was being framed by Minister of National Security John Saldivar.  Following that bombshell admission, the case was closed, bringing us to Tuesday when the men will learn the outcome of the trial. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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