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Jul 9, 2020

Sentencing for Danny Mason et al Adjourned

After nine o’clock this morning, convicted murderer Danny Mason and four other accomplices in the beheading of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas arrived at the Supreme Court to learn their fate. But their appearance was brief and they were escorted back to the Belize Central Prison heavily guarded. Sentencing had been scheduled for today before Justice Antoinette Moore but after a side bar with attorneys, the Justice cited administrative matters as the reason why she could not hand down a judgement. The court is also trying to locate Dexter Todd, the attorney for Mason. In the following report, News Five’s Duane Moody has why sentencing was delayed.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

They were convicted for the beheading of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas back on December third 2019 by Justice Antoinette Moore in the Belmopan Supreme Court, but today sentencing was deferred to a later date. Attorneys and the crown received notice a few weeks ago that the five convicted men would learn how much more time they will spend behind bars.  So this morning, the court area in Belize City was swarming as law enforcement officers escorted William “Danny” Mason, Ernest Castillo, Ashton Vanegas, and siblings Keiron and Terrence Fernandez up the steps of the Supreme Court.

 

Norman Rodriguez

Norman Rodriguez, Attorney for Ashton Vanegas

“We had expected to be there at least two days because of the number of witnesses and even if any of the convicted men would have wanted to mitigate on their own behalf. So because of that number and then what the attorneys would have submitted; it would have gone beyond today.”

 

The men alongside their attorneys entered into the judge’s chambers briefly, but the court was unable to conduct sentencing due to administrative reasons and the matter adjourned to Monday, July thirteenth. Among those reasons, we are told, is that the court is trying to contact Mason’s former attorney, Dexter Todd, who returned to Guyana. Then, there is the issue of Antoinette Moore’s unsigned contract as a justice of the Supreme Court.

 

Bryan Neal

Bryan Neal, Attorney

“Regrettably the matter had to be adjourned. The sentencing is now scheduled for Monday. There was an issue with the judge’s contract of employment. She doesn’t seem to be on tenure so the government has not renewed her contract. It seems to be something that will be resolved today so that constitutionally she could not give a decision without being constitutionally appointed as a judge. So for that slight administrative issue that they seem to be having in Belmopan, we had to adjourn and we will return to court on Monday.   She has already found the accused men, Keiron Fernandez and the others guilty, but what she needs to do now is sentence them to see how many years they will spend in prison. She could not do that because constitutionally, she is not a judge until her contract is signed.”

 

The trial lasted several months after a period of adjournments; a locust was also carried out and many witnesses were called to the stand. Despite attempts made to poke holes in the prosecution’s arguments and the evidence presented, Justice Moore was convinced in the trial without jury that the five men were responsible for Pastor Lue’s beheading. Attorney Bryan Neal, who represented Keiron Fernandez, says that the documents have already been filed for an appeal of the conviction.

 

Bryan Neal

“That is a matter for the judge, but as an attorney, you make a guesstimate based on what the precedence before have been and from what I have seen from my research in cases like these, the range is anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-five years I would say in previous cases. What this judge does in this case is entirely up to this judge.”

 

Norman Rodriguez

“The law had changed so that they could not give a life sentence without giving a specific number of years before anybody could be on parole or so on. I guess each attorney, after preparing their mitigation submissions would have in his or her mind a number of years that they would ask the court for, but that is all left up to the judge.”

 

Duane Moody

“Is your client still claiming innocence?”

 

Norman Rodriguez

“He has instructed me that he is innocent. I can’t say he knows what happened there; he knows what he feels and he knows what he knows. If he believes that he is innocent and he is maintaining that, then he has to have a reason why.”

 

Duane Moody

“I know that indication has been made that an appeal will be done.”

 

Bryan Neal

“You have twenty-one days from the date of sentence to appeal the sentence and they have already lodged an appeal in terms of the conviction. So losing a couple days is frustrating for them, but it is something that you have to accept in the circumstances.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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