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Jul 29, 2020

Final Day of Mitigation Hearing in Murder Trial of Mason Five

The courtroom of Justice Antoinette Moore was crowded today for the mitigation plea of William “Danny” Mason.  The families of the convicted men were in court for the second day of mitigation in the trial that has captivated the nation.  Pastor Llewellyn Lucas’ sister sat stoically as Mason spoke.  He, along with four other men, was convicted in December 2019 of the gruesome beheading of the pastor, whose head was found in Mason’s vehicle. Mason is believed to have been the mastermind of the crime, but today in court, he called Pastor Lucas a friend and also said that he had made contributions to ministers and law enforcement. Two witnesses, speaking via Skype from Canada and the U.S., offered testimony to the effect that the convict was of good standing.  The Director of Public Prosecution, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal spoke of retribution for the gruesome murder. The proceedings concluded before one o’clock and Justice Moore will be handing down sentence on Thursday morning, which we will bring to you as it happens.  News Five’s Duane Moody has the following report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

For a second day in a row, five convicted murderers sat in Supreme Court room number six across from Justice Antoinette Moore as a mitigation hearing was conducted prior to their sentencing. But William “Danny” Mason, Ernest Castillo, Ashton Vanegas and siblings Keiron and Terrence Fernandez will have to wait one more day before they learn their fate since Justice Moore pushed back sentencing to Thursday at 10:30 a.m.  The mitigation hearings began on Tuesday with character witnesses as well as the convicted men, giving statements to the court. Mason’s was heard today.  They asked the court to exercise leniency when handing down appropriate sentences.


Norman Rodriguez

Norman Rodriguez, Attorney for Ashton Vanegas

“It is a presentation of the person’s history to, by the defence, so that the court can see the person other than just the convict before it sentences. When you present mitigation, you’re allowing the court to see the person’s history from a different angle—the environment the person grew up in, the nurturing that he or she had so that the court or the jury, if it is a jury, does not see a murderer solely in this case. You know when you see a murderer; you know the way you feel. You want a life for a life. But if you are able to see how the person progressed through life and you are able to understand that there may be factors that could have contributed to this person being in this kind of circumstances, then of course that may soften up the position that the court takes so that it prompts it to give a lower sentence.”


This morning, just before nine o’clock, a police bus drove up to the steps of the Supreme Court building; the men were escorted under heavy guard from the Special Patrols Unit of the Belize Police Department.

The courtroom was filled with relatives of the four other convicted men as well as the sister of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas, for whose murder they have been convicted. Notably, Mason’s common-law-wife nor any other person in his support was in court today.

As the session began, Canadian Daryl Chase was the first character witness. He said he knew Mason for fifteen years, having met him while working on a gold mining project in Guyana. Also testifying in the sentencing hearing was William Roush, who lives in Guyana, but is currently stuck in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The manager of Mason’s family trust, Roush said that, “the Danny he knows he cannot believe is involved in something like this.”

At his turn, Mason told the court that he has assisted with healthcare across the world, including Belize, having donated a number of health equipment and investing in agriculture, education and even disaster response. He first came to Belize in January 2014 and claims that along the way he helped a lot of ministers of government and law enforcement. He admitted that Pastor Lue worked for him but had a lot of enemies. Mason expressed remorse to the family of Pastor Lue and said that he too is saddened by what has happened.


Norman Rodriguez

“I disagree with the D.P.P. in her submission that my client declared his innocence. He did not declare his innocence.”



“But he did not accept guilty either.”


Norman Rodriguez

“He expressed remorse and the D.P.P. explained to the court what she believes. The court will have to make its decision on that. I am not going to say that he did or did not.”


Now, the trial judge will use her discretion to determine sentencing after taking into consideration the mitigation pleas as well as the aggravating factors.  Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal submitted that the facts of this case transcend other case. She said it is about retribution, punishment, deterrence and the importance of public confidence in the justice system. She stressed that the aggravating features of the case can override mitigation.


Norman Rodriguez

“The D.P.P. has performed her role and she has addressed the aggravating factors, the mitigating factors. And yes she said to the court that she only wants to assist the court, but within that assistance, you know she has to perform her role to get what she believes is a just sentence. We see it differently, she sees it differently so here we are at this point, this crossroad and tomorrow we will get the sentencing because we have completed the mitigation aspect of the case.”


The facts of the case are that in July 2016, Pastor Lucas was kidnapped, killed, his head severed, body burnt and his severed head discovered at a bar in the pickup truck of Mason in the parking lot of a restaurant where all five men were socializing. Duane Moody for News Five.

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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