BELMOPAN, Wed. Mar. 20, 2019– The sensational murder trial of William “Danny” Mason and his co-accused, Ashton Vanegas, Terrence and Keiron Fernandez, and Ernest Henry Castillo continued today, Wednesday, and lasted until late into the evening before the trial slipped into a voir dire (a trial within a trial).
The bone of contention in the voir dire is a statement that was given to police by one of the accused men, while the defense is contending that the accused man who gave police the statement was beaten.
The presiding judge, Antoinette Moore, will have to decide whether or not the statement will be admitted into the evidence against the accused men. The Crown called to the witness stand the police officer who recorded the statement, to testify.
Yesterday, Tuesday, was the fifth day of the trial and the court heard from Harry Noble, a network database consultant, who was the thirteenth witness to testify on behalf of the prosecution, according to a summary posted on Facebook by Plus TV’s Louis Wade.
Noble, who has been working for the Belize Police Department for 15 years, testified that on July 19, 2016, he was handed two DVRs by Inspector Osman Mortis so that he could extract and review their contents.
One of the DVRs was a Lorex and the other was a Revolite brand. Noble said that the Lorex DVR had no data, but the Revolite contained a large amount of data.
Noble extracted video footage of Danny Mason’s home from the DVR — footage which covered the period from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for the 15th of July 2016 — and showed the content to Corporal Vasquez. The content was copied to 5 DVDs on the 24th of August, 2016, and on a sixth DVD which was sealed in a manila envelope and handed to Corporal Vasquez.
Noble identified the envelope in court and it was admitted into the Crown’s evidence.
The defense, however, objected to the DVR evidence being admitted on the grounds that Noble was not qualified to perform the extraction and the equipment could have been tampered with when Noble was out of the country.
The defense also raised the issue that the 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. time frame did not corroborate with the 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. time frame about which Corporal Vasquez testified.
In re-examination, the Crown questioned Noble about the time difference and he told the court that the time lapse between July and August was due to the fact that he was on leave and was out of the country while his wife was getting medical care.
Noble told the court that while he was away, the DVR was locked up in the server room in Belmopan and that only he has access to it, as there is only one key to the door, which he has.
Noble also testified that his laptop was left inside the PITU room, an office in Belmopan with approximately five employees. He assured the court that there was no likelihood of anyone gaining access to his computer, because he has a Linux computer, which has one of the most secure operating systems available.
The defense also raised concerns about Noble’s qualifications, but he was able to list a number of qualifications which satisfied the court and the defense’s concerns.
The DVR was admitted into the prosecution’s evidence against the accused men.
Some portions of the 3-hour surveillance video footage were played in court at the request of the prosecution.
The 3-hour footage is made up of 6 files from 3 separate cameras. The cameras are labeled as camera 15, 4 and 3. Camera 15 simply established the clothing the accused were wearing on the day of the murder.
Camera four showed footage from the garage under Danny Mason’s house, while camera three revealed footage from the front door of the house. The camera at the entrance of the house revealed that between 1:14 p.m. on the said date, a person appearing to be Pastor Lucas walked up the front stairway of the home and walked past the surveillance camera.
At about 1:40 p.m., Mason was seen standing at the door with two of his accomplices, talking. During the conversation, Mason pulled a firearm from his waist and gave it to one of the men standing in front of him. Mason then went back inside the house. Pastor Lucas was seen again, this time being escorted by two men.
They were walking on the porch, away from the camera. The man walking behind Pastor Lucas pulled a huge butcher knife from his waist and continued walking. At approximately 1:49 p.m., Mason walked out of his house and headed in the direction in which Pastor Lucas had been escorted.
The garage camera showed that sometime between 1:37 p.m. and 2:05 p.m., a person appearing to be Pastor Llewellyn Lucas was bound and resisted being put in the back of Mason’s Ford F150 pickup. He was then lifted and thrown into the back of the pickup.
Two other individuals were also seen being thrown into the back of Mason’s pickup. The video then showed a person appearing to be Mason getting into the driver’s seat of the Ford F150 and driving away. The person seen getting in the driver’s seat of the Ford F150 was wearing similar clothing to what Mason was wearing when he was detained at Sancho’s Bar on the night of July 15th. The entire footage is 3 hours long.
The second and final witness for the day was the former Assistant Commissioner of Police, Russell Blackett.
Blackett told the court that on the morning of July 16, 2016 at about 2:30 a.m., he was sitting in his office being briefed by Corporal Vasquez, who informed him that Mason wanted to speak with him privately.
Blackett told the court that he had known Mason prior to that meeting. According to Blackett, he met Mason in March of the same year when Mason accompanied the Minister of National Security to San Pedro and Caye Caulker when the Minister was touring police locations across the country.
According to Blackett, he inquired about Mason’s identity when he met Mason sitting in an official meeting during the tour.
Blackett informed the court that he met Mason at least twice after that occasion.
The Crown asked Blackett to elaborate on his 3 to 5-minute meeting with Mason on the morning of July 16.
Blackett explained that during that meeting, Mason informed him that he was the friend of some ministers of government and that he had supported several ministers.
Mason then told Blackett that if he wanted to find out the identity of the person to whom the head belonged, he could find the person’s identity on Facebook.
Blackett then instructed Mason to use his own phone, upon which Mason showed Blackett a picture of Pastor Lewellyn Lucas.
Mason then told Blackett that the head belonged to Pastor Lucas.
Blackett admitted to the court that he was infuriated by this information, because he knew Pastor Lucas when he was growing up. He then ordered that Mason be escorted back to his holding cell. Blackett took further steps, based on the information he gathered from Mason at the time.
Blackett also testified that before the conversation, he had cautioned Mason by telling him that whatever he said would be taken into evidence.
The defense, however, is contending that the meeting of Mason with Blackett violated established police procedures.