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Trial within a trial for Mason 5 adjourned

GeneralTrial within a trial for Mason 5 adjourned

BELMOPAN, Thurs. Sept. 15, 2022

In July of this year, Danny Mason and his four accomplices—Ernest Castillo, Ashton Vanegas, Keiron Fernandez, and Terrence Fernandez, who in 2020 were all convicted for the murder and beheading of Pastor Llewelyn Lucas, appeared in court to answer to separate charges related to the kidnapping of Lloyd and Rose Friessen.

At that time, however, when they appeared in court for a jury selection (voir dire) and the possible start of the trial, the presiding judge, Justice Francis Cumberbatch, dismissed the jury on the grounds that they may have been prejudiced.

“When we came back, the judge looked at another issue raised, and that is that the jury had become privy to a part of the process, and the judge in his own discretion and wisdom decided to discharge the jury,” Norman Rodriquez, attorney for Ashton Vanegas, had informed the media following that afternoon session. He had indicated, however, that the next jury would be selected in September.

Today, September 15, the men appeared once again in the Belmopan Supreme Court, but the day’s proceeding was adjourned due to the absence of an attorney, according to Norman Rodriguez. He said that the defense is trying to get evidence related to the identification of the group of 5 struck out in a voir dire currently being conducted. That proceeding was pushed back until November 28, 29, and 30 of this year.

Rodriquez explained.that the accused are objecting to the admission of the evidence based on a procedural error, though he would not specify what error that was.

“A group identification was held, and some of the defendants are objecting to that being tendered as a part of the evidence,” Rodriguez said. “It will always be about the procedure. They are saying certain things which I personally will not reveal at this time, but that the process that was followed that there were errors in it, and as a result, they don’t want the identification to be tendered as evidence,” Rodriguez said.

He noted that if their efforts to get that evidence struck out are successful, it may mean that the case against those men “is finished.”

“If we are successful in this, it would mean that the case against some of our clients may end,” he said. While he did say that other evidence will be admitted against the men in regard to the kidnapping charges, identification is a key element in the case.

“If you are not allowed to identify the person in court, what they call a dock identification, then it means that you do not have a defendant against whom you are bringing any case at all,” Rodriguez said.

He said that one of the attorneys for the defense was able to make a compelling argument and the judge decided to adjourn the case until the last three days in November.

Danny Mason, who has already been sentenced to life in prison for murdering Pastor Lucas, is now facing charges for the kidnapping of Lloyd Friessen, who later fled the country, and his wife, Rose. Friessen said that Mason conned him out of $300,000 in a fraudulent corn shipment deal after Friessen had already paid him cash for the shipment. The shipment, which was to come from Argentina, never reached the country, and Friessen had reportedly started to insist that Mason return the money. It was at this point that Mason allegedly lured him and his wife to his Intelco Hill residence for a purported business meeting but then kidnapped them with the aid of his reportedly armed workmen and took them to his ranch (where, it is believed, Pastor Lucas was beheaded weeks later).

Friessen said that he and his wife were both threatened by Mason, and that instead of having his money returned he was told that he would have to pay Mason $2,500 weekly. Friessen told police that he paid the money for a few weeks before fleeing the country.

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