When the national teachers’ union in Belize called for a formal inquiry into the “Mystery of the Severed Head” in 2016, Dean Barrow’s government ignored that request.
Consequently, the court of public opinion in Belize has been lacking essential facts ever since, ultimately giving rise to this website which has not been propagated, influenced or financed in any way by the teachers’ union.
The case not only involves the fate of Danny Mason. It important to make clear that four other men have been under-represented in court and incarcerated (Kieron Fernandez, Ashton Vanegas, Ernest Castillo and Terrance “Teo” Fernandez).
It is also vital to remember that two other men accompanied this quartet to Mr. Santo’s Bar on the night of the arrest and yet these two workers — Tyrell and Lemar [seen below]– were not arrested. One of these men, Lemar, was subsequently beaten by police. Both went into hiding.
Remarkably, neither of these two labourers were called to testify in court, nor were they asked to supply written statements, despite the fact that they were brought to Mr. Santo’s Bar in Danny Mason’s pickup, with the others, from the Outback Ranch where police claimed the murder must have occurred.
After the clothing of the quartet was confiscated in the Belmopan police station, police circulated images of the four detainees in makeshift, ill-fitting garb. Seen in an unkempt and frightened state, they appear as ne’e’r-do-wells. But the truth is not has it has been made to appear. Does the man in the orange shirt look like a murderer? As the foreman of the workers, Kieron Fernandez has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. The four co-accused with Mason could never afford adequate legal representation.
Now here are fifteen reasons why Danny Mason, Kieron Fernandez and their three companions jointly arrested at Mr. Santo’s Bar should not have been found guilty. The doctoring of surveillance footage should also merit attention at the Court of Appeal level but limited access to that footage prevents incorporation of tampering into this inventory of reasons for acquittal at this time.
THE ICE BUCKET
“Pastor Llewelyn Lucas was killed on July 15, 2016. His severed head was found on ice in a bucket in the pan of Mason’s pick-up truck.” Renee Trujillo, news director, Love FM
In July, in Belmopan, the average high temperature is 34°C (93°F) and the average low at night is 22°C (72°F).
If one does some basic research, one is able to learn the temperature in Belmopan on July 15, 2016, at 6 p.m., was 29°C.
Therefore, unless an errant blizzard from Antarctica was somehow approaching central Belize around 8 p.m., one can only rationally conclude it was still very warm in the unshaded gravel parking lot where Danny’s pick-up was parked. The temperature inside a black bucket, without a lid on it, in the back of such a vehicle that was in direct sunlight for hours, would have likely exceeded the air temperature.
Therefore, after four hours in the July heat of Belize, the ice in the open bucket would have melted.
Therefore, the head should have been afloat in water.
You only need a high school science degree—or common sense—to conclude that Danny Mason and his cohorts in the pick-up truck could not have beheaded Llewellyn Lucas.
Danny Mason was fully aware there was a regular checkpoint on the highway between his ranch and Belmopan.
The back of the pick-up was searched around 5:15 pm and there was no head in it.
This information was provided to his attorney, Herbert Panton, the second attorney who agreed to represent him after Richard “Dickie” Bradley surprised everyone by quitting on the first day. Danny even provided his attorney Panton with the identity of the officer who had searched the back of his vehicle that day.
At the time, Danny and Melissa were not aware that Panton was the uncle of “Andrew,” the assistant who had helped Souad keep her in hiding for two weeks. It was therefore inexplicable to them as to why Danny’s lawyer would choose not to raise the highly significant matter of passing through a roadblock minutes before arrival at Mr. Santo’s Bar.
In the U.S. and Canada, it could be routinely assumed that defence counsel would automatically and exclusively serve the best interests of the client; the couple did not imagine an attorney might choose to behave differently.
After having been checked routinely at the police roadblock, many times, Danny had grown to know many of the officers by name, but Herbert Panton still would not raise this issue or the identity of that inspecting officer at the highway checkpoint in court. In retrospect, it is obvious that a verification from a police constable, confirming the back of the pick-up was “clean” at around 5:15 pm, would have toppled the case of the Crown.
The identity of that inspecting officer is still known to Danny. So, who else knows?
There is little reason to assume attorney Herbert Panton would still be respecting client/attorney confidentiality privileges regarding this case. There are various reasons why he probably has by now divulged the identity of that roadblock witness who could have cleared Mason’s name with a one-minute testimony:
By resigning from the case not long after Bradley did, therefore leaving his defendant even further up the proverbial creek without a paddle, it is patently obvious that Panton was not primarily motivated by the best interests of his former client.
[Herbert Panton’s statement for leaving his client in the lurch revealed absolutely nothing about his motives for doing so: “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.” (March 22, 2019)]
Panton would naturally be keen to protect his nephew who might still be susceptible to criminal charges if the abduction of Melissa by Souad Lindo became public knowledge and there was a change in the federal government
It was Herbert Panton, acting on behalf of the defence, who gave his crucial consent to empower the judge to allow the incorporation of the highly questionable surveillance footage ultimately used to cook Danny’s goose when other, more substantial and conclusive evidence, could not be found.
Herbert Panton is married to Tracey Taeger-Panton, who will run for UDP in the Alberts riding during the 2020 general election. She is currently Minister for Trade, Investment and Commerce. She has officially applied to serve as the UDP’s First Deputy position in preparation for the UDP convention slated for February 9, 2020.
If Belizean powers-that-be by now know the identify of that Belizean roadcheck constable, there is a very good chance—in fact, it’s probably likely in Belize—that such an individual would have already been intimidated, physically assaulted or had his family threatened given the political importance of the Danny Mason arrest.
But one hastens to add that not all Belizean policeman are corrupt. If one retains a speck of optimism about the inherent goodness of man, there is no shortage of philosophers throughout the ages who have argued that mankind is not inherently evil. In fact, many have argued that mankind is inherently good. Only the nature of the political environment that surrounds him makes him evil, etc.
If there is one good copper on the Belize police force who knew and liked Danny, due to their repeated interactions at the roadcheck between Danny’s ranch and Belmopan, and if that good copper is someone who was raised by good parents to respect the truth, the pressure on that individual is now clearly immense if he can be requisitioned by a new and responsible defence counsel to bear witness in court when it goes to appeal.
We know Belizean police beat witnesses. We do not know, however, if all Belizean police can be relied upon to beat a fellow officer when called upon. Hence, the UDP has invented their Gang Suppression Unit. It stands to reason that by now the GSU would have had some serious exchanges with the officer in question. Even if that officer was sufficiently intimidated to agree not to provide any testimony that would serve to liberate Danny Mason—and therefore send a house cards tumbling down that could seriously impede the viability for re-election of the UDP—what exactly would this witness have to say?
He would have to lie and say, yes, I certainly did see Danny Mason and his gang of cutthroats on the highway that day, around 5:15, but, for some reason, on that particular day, I chose not to lift the cover of the “pan” area as I usually do… But one of the reasons that Danny Mason always left the pan area of his pick-up unlocked was simply because he knew he was required to show that area of his vehicle to police at the almost daily roadblock. Going through those daily roadchecks is a routine process in Belize, on par with brushing one’s teeth in the morning. Nonetheless, Belize police have remained insistent that Danny must have driven three hostages to his ranch on July 15 because one of the men claimed to have heard the sound of pigs.
A “roadblock” defence could be even more conclusive than the “ice” defence if there is still one honest and brave police officer in Belize.
Only in the immediate aftermath of Melissa Ferguson successfully filing to appeal the case did Police Chief Chester Williams implement a nation-campaign to photograph every citizen and tourist at every roadblock throughout Belize, as if somehow the entire country had been catapulted backward into East Berlin under the Stasi in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. There are two reasons why Williams might have done so, immediately in the aftermath of Appeal Court application being formally accepted due entirely to the persistence of Melissa Ferguson at great expense.
- If an appeal is launched, and if the aforementioned checkpoint police officer does take the stand and if that severely intimidated individual happens to crumble under cross-examination and he does confess that, yes, he does remember checking Danny’s vehicle thoroughly, about five years after the incident, Crown prosecutors will doubtless argue that human memory is fallible—whereupon Police Chief Chester Williams can take the stand and happily reassure the court and the public that he sought to introduce a far better and infallible system, employing cameras, to better protect the public.
- But Williams’ costly and draconian procedure for nation-wide time-wasting might have been introduced for another reason: If the UDP and police got wind of the fact that a foreign journalist who could actually write his way out of a paper bag was in Belize and asking probing questions, the police in particular might wish to expend a great deal of time and money to discover who that foreigner was and stifle him as best they could. The best way to find such a person as quickly as possible in such a small country with so few major roads would be to radically inconvenience every citizen on the roads just for the sake of detaining one individual. The stakes are high. Anything to keep the truth from coming out.
Souad Lindo’s role in Melissa Ferguson’s 18-day ordeal, organizing and encouraging her to remain in seclusion, has never been made public knowledge prior to this website.
Souad Lindo has therefore been able to publicly deny knowledge of Melissa Ferguson, as well as any direct involvement in the Danny Mason case.
This denial of reality ought to be grounds of consternation in Belize due to the fact that she can be connected to the Prime Minister of Belize, she is associated with the Lindo law firm and she now expects to be called to the bar—if that has not happened already.
As becomes abundantly clear in the STORY section of this site, another obvious shortcoming of the trial process was not to have placed Souad Lindo on the witness stand.
At the very least, the public should know the extent of her communications she had with relatives within the legal establishment of Belize, as well as any relatives she has within the governing party of Belize, during those eighteen days when she conspired to keep Melissa Ferguson in confusion and segregation.
The fact that Melissa Ferguson was convinced to flee in fright from Intelco Hill not only made it very, very easy for law officials to essentially ransack the house and take away private belongings that would never be returned; it also ensured that police would gain immediate access to surveillance video footage that would be very selectively chosen for use in court.
Only after the trial–during which defence counsel had been compliant and uncritical of the prosecution’s preparations of those videos, has it become more glaringly obvious, with much closer scrutiny, that portions of these materials were doctored.
Souad Lindo went to great lengths to persuade Melissa Ferguson to sign an agreement whereby Souad would have her permission to access the house property, and Ferguson was instinctively reticent and suspicious. Of course, Ferguson was in a vulnerable situation because she was very worried that her animals needed to be fed. Souad Lindo pressured her to gain access. And Souad Lindo was fundamental in keeping Melissa Ferguson, allowing the police and the Prime Minister ample opportunity to convince the public that Melissa Ferguson was on the run–a lie.
For several years Souad Lindo has been able to cover her tracks. Now she is ascending the UDP hierarchy.
The connection between Jesus Castillo and the murder victim was left unexamined in the trial. For reasons that remain inexplicable, Jesus Castillo never took the stand and his phone records for that fateful day were never presented to the court.
The fact this trial could be held without any interrogation of one of John Saldivar’s right men who also had close relations to Danny Mason is, as far as an objective viewer can see, a travesty.
The court was never apprised of the fact Castillo had received substantial funds from Mason and that Castillo was therefore in debt to Mason. The trial failed to establish that approximately $60,000 BZ was exchanged between the two men on a personal basis, not for support of the UDP. Some $13,000 enabled Castillo’s wife to attend university—and this loan was paid back—but Castillo also used money from Danny to purchase a vehicle and ended up keeping funds for personal use. It is not clear as to the extent to which Jesus Castillo might have come to regard monies received from Danny as a gift rather than a loan.
Meanwhile, allegedly loans that Danny gave to other Belizeans, including Frank Mena ($40 K) and UDP Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber ($150 K), remain not fully repaid.
Regardless of exact amounts and identities, it is obvious that a lot of people in the UDP establishment are benefitting from Danny Mason’s incarceration. A thorough list of everyone who owed Danny Mason ought to have been compiled by investigators.
If the phone records for Jesus Castillo could somehow be made available for an appeal, one might now have to question their veracity. The court and its agents, the police, would likely require the full and necessary cooperation of the only major telecommunications company in Belize, Belize Telemedia. This company is represented by the law firm that is directly associated with the Prime Minister of Belize.
On the evening of Mason’s arrest, Jesus Castillo was repeatedly calling Melissa on her cel phone, saying, “What’s going on, Mel?” She found these calls very odd at the time. Castillo did not sound particularly grief-stricken about the sickening murder of somehow who, he had told her, had been a boyhood friend.
On the night of the gruesome discovery, Castillo already knew far more about the situation than she did—having invited Danny for a drink—so why was he asking her for explanations? If phone records of this man who invited Mason to the Santos Bar had been promptly examined, there is a possibility—it is conceivable—Castillo might have been relaying information about his calls to Melissa to others.
To leave such stones unturned only leads to a growing suspicion that the Belizean justice system is susceptible to willful negligence. Public cynicism about the judicial system of any country can generate a feeding ground for endemic corruption.
When Russell Blackett was asked explain how he knew Danny Mason, he replied, “I went to his home to view, [SIC] to see the location, to spot it out for the purpose of our ongoing investigation…”
In Belize, this sort of dodge can pass muster.
In a country that is a global leader in homicide, both Commissioner Williams and Acting Commissioner Blackett have not come under any significant pressure to explain why the deceitful conduct regarding the irregular acquisitions of firearms and official documents, germane to this case, have not been adequately explained.
There is evidence to suggest that Acting Commissioner of Police Russell Blackett oversaw his duties in the style of a local fiefdom. He knew everyone’s business, and he made it his business to know everyone’s business.
Therefore, would it not be necessary and appropriate for a highly-placed official such as Russell Blackett to be able to tell the court and media precisely who it was in Belize who assisted Danny Mason in the process of his procuring Belizean citizenship?
Why have Blackett and Chief Chester Williams not been required to investigate and also name precisely who it was who assisted Danny Mason in the process of procuring his phoney birth certificate?
Why have Blackett and Chief Chester Williams not been required to divulge who precisely assisted Danny Mason in the process of enabling him to secure preferential treatment for the acquisition of firearms?
Even if the defense attorneys in Belize were too frightened to ask the Acting Commissioner such obvious questions, should not the judge of this case been curious to learn such essential details?
During his appearance in court, Blackett was not truthful about his activities on the night on the arrest and the judge of the case did rebuke for providing unreliable testimony but Blackett did not incur any other repercussions.
Lawyers during a Court of Appeal process might wish also ask police officials such as Russell Blackett why basic information about clandestine paperwork has yet to be made known to the public and why no charges have been laid for deceitful conduct against any Belizean officials.
In December of 2019, Canadian Michael Beckett went to Belize for the purpose of buying property and becoming a part-time resident. He was told to bring enough cash for a down payment. Beckett was promptly mugged by police who beat him. After they took his money, police forced him onto a plane back to Canada. Months later, he was suffering from shock and PTSD.
How is that Chester Williams and Russell Blackett can be allowed to remain in control of the constabulary in Belize when such events occur?
When a British widow believes her husband’s organs have been harvested after he was absurdly declared a victim of drowning in Placencia, how is that the police are so consistently evasive and downright dismissive of grief-stricken foreigners looking for explanations?
One can only conclude that by consistently turning a blind eye, the governmental administration of the country has encouraged its own police to become more recklessly rogue and self-servicing.
A severed head in a bucket is the end result.
CONTAMINATION OF EVIDENCE
The head of the deceased man should have been taken immediately to a medical or forensic laboratory for proper handling and storage.
A Forensic Analyst is on record assuring the court this was done.
In fact, the floor tiles of the Belmopan police station are visible alongside the bucket in the gruesome photo that was taken for dissemination via Facebook.
A photo of Kieron Fernandez shows him standing on the same floor tiles on the night of his arrest, as do photos of other co-accused.
Unless police took photos of accused at the forensic laboratory, and the forensic lab happens have the same floor tiles that appear in those photos, it is safe to assume the bucket with the head in it was first delivered, after the arrest at Mr. Santo’s Bar, to the place where the suspects were photographed by police.
Judging by the photos that were seemingly taken by the police themselves, it is impossible not to conclude the police not only went out of their way to sensationalize the case, in their eagerness to gain a conviction under the direction of Acting Police Commissioner Russell Blackett, they also failed to handle crucial evidence with appropriate care.
The police saw fit to remove the duct tape that was concealing much of the head, therefore preventing a clearly identifiable image to be circulated to sensationalize the case.
The police were fastidious enough to wear rubber gloves in order to position the severed head for optimal exposure for a shocking photo, but in their haste to generate public revulsion that would be transformed into hatred for the accused, they failed to entirely conceal where the image was taken.
This mishandling of the primary evidence shows the extent to which police were clearly instructed by someone to frame Danny Mason and, by association, some of his unfortunate colleagues.
These procedural liberties taken by the police ought to have enabled any discriminating judge or jury to conclude there was ample opportunity and motive for the police to ensure some blood from the head would be later found by DNA analysis on clothing belonging to some of the accused—because the police forced the suspects to remove their clothes at the police stations, as photos have shown.
Given these factors, if one knows the severed head in the bucket was taken first to the police station and not to the morgue, one need not be a cynic to conclude there was little to prohibit the over-zealous police from taking some of the blood from the severed head and applying it to the clothing that had been taken from the accused after they were detained.
Overt and incontestable procedural liberties taken by the police ought to have been red-flagged by competent defence counsel and one can suggest that the judge ought to have been suspicious when only very small amounts of blood were later found by DNA analysis on clothing belonging to three of the accused.
Simply put, cutting someone’s head off is a very messy business. If you were to undertake such a job, it is highly unlikely to produce only minimal smatterings of blood.
If such a murder was undertaken, the likelihood that any of the murderers would then head directly to a bar known to be a hangout for police, wearing the same clothing they wore for the execution, must be close to nil. Therefore, it stands to reason that mere droplets of blood with the victim’s DNA were more likely present due to police tampering.
As police have foolishly revealed with their own photos, police at the scene of the arrest extracted the severed head from the bucket in which it was allegedly discovered and placed that head on the tailgate of Danny Mason’s tailgate. Any defence lawyer worth his or her salt would have pressured police to explain what rationale they could have possibly had to justify such blatant tampering of evidence.
Before this crucial evidence was taken to a forensic laboratory for appropriate preservation and analysis, police saw fit to remove the green duct on the head and place that evidence out of its original context onto the tailgate for optimal viewing. Why?
The image of that severed head removed for the bucket lends much credence to Terrence Fernandez’s claim that he was brought back to Mr. Santo’s Bar and made to kiss the corpse—during time his clothing would be made to come into contact with crucial DNA evidence to facilitate the conviction that police had been instructed to gain.
The murder victim was claiming to have serious enemies wanting to kill him before he knew Danny Mason.
The Amandala newspaper can confirm this is true because Llewellyn Lucas made a nuisance of himself there, seeking recognition of his plight and some news coverage.
Neither the trial or the press adequately investigated the fact that Lucas had told various people that he was the object of death threats, including Jesus Castillo.
If Lucas really was receiving death threats, the defence counsel for Danny and the four other defendants ought to have questioned the extent to which police ever acknowledged or investigated those alleged death threats before the murder. Or after the murder.
The failure of both the police investigation and the trial to seriously investigate and consider who might have had a motive to eliminate Llewellyn Lucas reveals the extent to which the trial of Danny Mason and his four co-accused appears to be a case of tunnel vision. As ACT ONE of the story section of this site reveals, Llellwyn Lucas went out of his way to taunt some very highly-placed individuals—and they were not Danny Mason.
In her remarkable judgement, Magistrate Moore brazenly counteracted and reinterpreted the findings—or, rather, the non-findings—of the scientific reportage that was rendered after the police tried to find evidence of the deceased Brother Lue’s body at the Outreach Ranch belonging to Danny Mason and failed to do so.
Dr Estrada Bran not only testified that he was unable to determine an anatomical cause of death in this case, because he did not have all of the body to examine, but he also stated that he was not even able verify the sex or age/size of the human remains. How Magistrate Moore was able to determine the remains were male, when the scientific expert was unable do so, is unfathomable. Did it come to her in a dream?
Magistrate Moore nonetheless states in her summary, “I have also concluded that the remainder of the body of the deceased was burned in a pit at the Outback Ranch farm and that the bones found on the farm were from the deceased.”
Magistrate Moore further draws her unscientific conclusion that the defendants must be guilty based on two mere suppositions, two sentences that are commenced with the word “If.” She has written, “If beheading is how the five accused caused the death of the deceased it could mean only one thing—that they intended to kill him. If the deceased was harmed otherwise and then his head cut off, the intention to kill may still be inferred from those circumstances.”
At the risk of introducing some flippancy to a matter of extreme importance: “If” this somehow passes for judicial logic in Belize, one can only laugh or cry in response. To somehow lend credence to her position, Magistrate Moore resorts to including a few pithy sentences such as this: “The head of the deceased was cut off of his body.” “It is unknown what weapon was used to sever the head of the deceased.” “The doctor said it was a sharp instrument.”
If one considers words rationally, the Magistrate’s confident decision to over-ride the deductions of the scientific expert amount to specious folly.
The judgement by Magistrate Moore has been provided in its entirety in the APPENDIX section of this site.
PASTOR DODD’S TESTIMONY
Pastor David Dodd stated there was no sign of Llewellyn Lucas when he and Alvin Wright were released from the pick-up.
Magistrate Moore took particular care to commend Dodd as a highly credible witness. “In fact, his testimony stood unchallenged. None of the defence counsel suggested that Mr. Dodd was not credible.”
If Dodd’s word is therefore to be accepted as truth, Llewellyn Lucas must have been dropped off somewhere along the way and therefore it is more likely that another party would have been responsible for his murder.
FIVE MEN ARRESTED INSTEAD OF SEVEN
In a matter of minutes instead of days, police somehow decided to arrest only five out of the seven men who are known to have arrived in the same pick-up.
Police told media the discovery of the head was a surprise, a lucky break, a fluke. Acting ComPol Russell Blackett stated during a press conference, “Had it not been we were conducting this investigation and were tracking this man, trying to locate him, there is a possibility [that] we would have been investigating a missing person’s report. So I would say by the stroke of luck we stumbled upon this and I am glad we did.
But if it truly was, indeed, a stroke of luck that Officer Holly Vasquez discovered the incriminating evidence of a severed head, it only stands to reason that all men in the pick-up would have been held for extensive questioning.
If the police were truly surprised, as has been claimed, they would have had no way of quickly confirming where the alleged murder had occurred, how it was managed and therefore precisely which of the seven men—if any—were culpable.
It therefore does stand to reason that some men from the pick-up could only have been let go if the police were acting upon a predetermined agenda.
This basic logic is irrefutable. None of the seven men confessed to the murder, therefore how could police possibly eliminate at least two suspects for a heinous crime if they truly had no foreknowledge of that crime?
The fact that some men travelling in the same pick-up truck that had allegedly brought the severed head to Mr. Santo’s Bar were set free on the same night that five others were arrested can only lead to the conclusion that police must have bee acting on pre-designed orders.
The police were foolish not to initially arrest all men from the pick-up and only decide to let some go free after extensive interviews the following day. That would have been the clever way to go about things.
They could even determine which of these men was most susceptible to coercion with a beating and proceed to force that individual to provide incriminating testimony against the others.
It is so clear that the blatantly obvious has been so blatantly overlooked—it is necessary to resort to repetitiveness: Given the serious nature of the crime, if police genuinely had no advance knowledge of where, how and when Llewellyn Lucas’ head had been severed, and by whom, logically, all men from the pick-up would have been taken into custody that night for extensive and prolonged interrogations.
Meanwhile, the original contention stated by the police for apprehending Danny Mason at Mr. Santo’s Bar—because they had received a bulletin to be on the look-out for a black pick-up and four dark-skinned accomplices in connection to a daylight robbery at a Belmopan tax office—can now be completely rejected as phoney.
Years later it has finally come to light that a single female who worked inside that office was charged with the crime, and later she was found not guilty. If the primary suspect turned out to be a female who worked indoors, how on God’s great earth can police possibly defend their absurd claim that they were searching Danny Mason at Mr. Santo’s Bar because he was a suspect for that taxation office theft?
Nobody but a complete, flat-earth fool could seriously argue that the original premise given by the police for searching Danny Mason and his vehicle was not a blatant lie to facilitate an entrapment process.
MISLEADING REPORTAGE, MANIPULATION OF EVIDENCE BY POLICE
There is a myriad of false reportage from the police. One example will suffice. When Danny Mason and his workers were apprehended at Mr. Santo’s Bar, they were advised they were being taken into custody for possible affiliation with a Tax Office robbery. They were subsequently transported to the Belmopan police station under those terms. But when police wrote their reports regarding why the four co-accused had been apprehended, they avoided any mention of the Tax Office robbery and instead claimed the foursome were apprehended on suspicion of murder, thereby alleviating the chances that the aforementioned issue of entrapment could be raised in court.
Instances in which the police behaved with nefarious intent and or were false in their reportage—such as assuring the public that the head of the victim was taken directly to forensic services—are littered throughout Acts One, Two and Three and need not be repeated here. The police lied by omission. They did not report, for example, taking the severed out of the bucket and placing on the tailgate of Danny Mason’s vehicle for another photo opportunity, as well as removing the duct tape that was attached to the neck and head in order to get a “better” image of the head in conjunction with Mason’s pick-up at Mr. Santo’s Bar.
CHERCHEZ LA FEMME
The First Lady’s bungling of a large medical services contract that was signed in order buy new medical equipment for Belizeans, and the very real possibility that her husband’s government could have faced a very embarrassing lawsuit as a result, must be seriously considered, with documentation, before anyone can claim that Danny Mason and his cohorts received an open and fair trial without any collusion from the Prime Minister’s office. If the contract was ratified and then unlawfully cancelled by Ms. Barrow in order to facilitate the awarding of the contract, at a higher price, in order to purchase refurbished items, there surely exists a strong possibility that corruption could have been involved. The matter must be examined because Danny Mason was marooned inside the Hattieville Prison, ultimately unable to obtain the services of a qualified lawyer from within Belize for his self-defence in the murder trial—and he has struggled to find a capable lawyer to defend him against kidnapping charges. A fair trial requires competent legal representation. If Danny Mason let it be known that he had legitimate cause for a lawsuit against the actions of the Prime Minister’s wife and the UDP government, Belize is a sufficiently small country that it would have been relatively easy for the highest level officials of the government to have intimidated and persuaded the legal community not to provide adequate services. This matter merits competent investigation by an independent examiner, not an appointee of the Prime Minister’s office.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Melissa and Danny not only expressed their grievance about the First Lady’s illegal cancellation of their signed contract with the government to someone who was the First Lady’s cousin—who worked within the government—but Danny also told Jesus Castillo that they felt aggrieved and that they were in a position to sue for damages.
It therefore stands to reason—it is conceivable—that if Castillo knew he had information that he might used to make himself not only more important to Saldivar, but also important to the Prime Minister, Belizeans can ask themselves about the likelihood that Jesus Castillo would choose to pass that piece of vital information up the food chain.
It is conceivable, possibly even likely, that once Castillo had been useful waving the red flag, he could have realized he was in an excellent position to make himself even more important to the powers-that-be in Belize by coming up with a solution to an embarrassing and politically sensitive problem, one that arose from the foolishness of Barrow’s First Lady.
If that solution entailed the eradication of a major thorn in the side of John Saldivar, eliminating someone perceived by him as traitorous for holding a victory party at home for his chief rival, the entrapment of Danny Mason might have been viewed as an opportunity by someone who could undertake it.
It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Barrow went through the motions of censuring John Saldivar for his connections to Danny Mason but there were no significant penalties to curtail his ambitions.
Ultimately, the status quo was reaffirmed. John Saldivar resumed his control of the police. The public was never allowed to know the exact reasons was Saldivar was purportedly being chastised by Barrow, so the Prime Minister’s chastisement amounted to a sham.
At the very least defence lawyers should be enabled to query John Saldivar as to the exact nature of his co-ownership of the Belmopan Bandits. Follow the money. Saldivar has lied by saying Mason made a donation. In fact, Mason has believed he was acquiring at least a thirty percent ownership.
It is important to note that much of the paperwork and files from Mason’s home was taken by police after his arrest and has never been returned to Melissa Ferguson. But the police were not able to abscond with all the files.
If Barrow requires Saldivar to appear squeaky clean, should not John Saldivar at least be required to return Mason’s sizeable investment to be free and clear of him? Has he attempted to do so? The public is kept in the dark about such matters. The public only knows about pronouncements made to the media by Saldivar and Barrow.
If John Saldivar wants to be the next prime minister, would it not be commonsensical (in most countries) for there to be a complete and independent investigation undertaken—by someone from outside of Belize—to learn the full nature and extent of John Salvidar’s numerous encounters and dealings with Danny Mason before John Saldivar has the opportunity to compete against Patrick Faber—who also accepted money from Danny Mason—for the highest office in the land?
John Saldivar is on record saying that he barely knew Danny Mason. That is a lie. John Saldivar is on record saying that Danny Mason only made a “contribution” to the Belmopan Bandits. This also a lie. We know Danny Mason provided a large amount of money to become at least a 30% co-owner of the Belmopan Bandits.
Unless Saldivar has chosen to give Mason’s money back to him on principle, it is not irrelevant to point out that John Saldivar is in a position to benefit financially if his co-owner of his soccer team remains behind bars for a very long time.
John Saldivar’s main competitor for the top job in Belize is Patrick Faber. Six weeks before the bizarre events at Santos Bar, Mason and his wife hosted a party for Faber as the newly sworn-in Deputy Prime Minister Faber. If it appeared to Saldivar that Mason had switched his primary allegiance to Faber—whether this was indeed the case or not—Saldivar has proven himself to be a highly aggressive adversary. Saldivar’s reputation for aggressive behavior is not irrelevant.
When Saldivar was linked to an alleged fraud case involving an American businessman, Lev Denmen, he took to Facebook to distance himself with a belligerent harangue. “I categorically reject any suggestion of my involvement in any fraud or bribery with Mr. Denmen. At no time have I used my office for such vile quid pro quo activities as the political propagandists suggest… My supporters and constituents who know me well know who I am and know that I am a man of integrity.”
Well and good. A man is entitled to defend his honour and blow his own horn. But Saldivar proceeds to show his aggressive character when he threatens to punish anyone who is not partial or beholden to him.
“To certain elements within my own party, I say that it is regrettable that the campaign for the leadership of my Party has caused some to sink to the level of maliciousness and falsehood. However, I will not be deterred. I am even more committed now to win this battle so that I may continue to contribute to improving the lives of the Belizean people.
“My attorney will now act on my behalf and is instructed to initiate legal action against anyone who has published, publishes, causes to be published or continues publication of these malicious falsehoods about me and the office I hold.”
Like a mafia crime boss, Saldivar demands loyalty. There is no middle ground. His co-owner of the Belmopan Bandits had to behave like a trusted and subservient ally—or else. By hosting a party for Patrick Faber, Danny Mason was a traitor.
Saldivar’s denials that he hardly knew Danny Mason were ridiculous. It’s about money. John Saldivar got as much money out of Danny Mason as he could; and as soon as Saldivar foresaw the tap had run dry, he became hostile.
LIES FROM THE TOP
Immediately following the arrests, Prime Minister Dean Barrow informed the public that Belizean police had been tailing Danny Mason for quite some time. He went on the television to make this abundantly clear.
The Prime Minister corroborated public statements by the chief of police that Danny Mason was being watched for weeks in connection with his suspected role in a possible kidnapping of two Mennonites with whom Mason was alleged to have business dealings.
As well, the highly inarticulate Russell Blackett, as “Acting ComPol,” held a press conference on Monday, two days after Mason was apprehended, to assure the public that the gruesome discovery was a matter of happenstance.
“Had it not been we were conducting this investigation and were tracking this man, trying to locate him, there is a possibility [that] we would have been investigating a missing person’s report. So, I would say by the stroke of luck we stumbled upon this…”
Again, the absurd pronouncement that police were “tracking” Danny Mason when he could be found at his home or ranch every day of the week makes no sense whatsoever.
Are Belizeans really that naïve? Did these unbelievable statements serve to reassure the general public that the police and the UDP administration knew that one of their primary financial backers was really just a bad guy all along? Several UDP cabinet ministers were in his debt, but that was not worth mentioning.
Given that Belize is a very small country and there are few major highways, and given that everybody knew where Danny Mason lived—most members of Prime Minister Barrow’s cabinet, after all, had been to his house and Danny was on very friendly terms with the police (some of whom held shooting practice at his ranch)—it therefore makes no sense for the police to claim that on July 15, 2016, they had initially searched and questioned Danny Mason and four of his cohorts at Mr. Santo’s Bar in connection with an afternoon robbery that had just occurred in Belmopan.
If police were already “tailing” Danny Mason in Belmopan, as the prime minister and Blackett both stated, did the police therefore witness this alleged robbery at the Tax Office and allow it to happen? Or was Barrow merely providing cover for the police when they staged a frame job at Mr. Santos Bar? If the people of Belize were not being lied to by their Prime Minister and Chief of Police, did that mean that somehow Belizean police had stood by and allowed a robbery to occur in broad daylight?
Given these lies and conflicting scenarios, it is far more likely that the robbery at the Tax Office could have been a phoney scenario from the get-go and therefore the subsequent search of Danny Mason’s person and vehicle were conducted under false pretenses, and these false pretences are proof of entrapment.
As soon as that head-in-a-bucket image garnered centre stage on Facebook, the alleged Tax Office robbery, used as the rationale to search Danny Mason and his vehicle at Mr. Santo’s Bar, disappeared from the public radar. How much exactly was stolen? Was anybody hurt? Have statements been taken from witnesses at the tax office? Was anyone ever caught and charged? Where is the police paperwork for the Tax Robbery file? Was it validated in court? Did any media outlets in Belize proceed to do their due diligence and corroborate this crucial scenario?
There would have to have been witnesses in order for the police to have confidence that a black pick-up truck was involved. Who were they?
Even if somehow the police officer who was supposed to be trailing Danny Mason fell asleep at the wheel or he took a bathroom break during the alleged involvement of a black pick-up in a Tax Office robbery, we have assurances from Prime Minister Barrow and Chief Chester Williams that police had already been instructed to be diligently on the alert regarding Mason for weeks.
If we are told that police were on alert to locate and apprehend Danny Mason that day, in response to the supposed robbery at the Tax Office, how on earth could the police or the court reconcile the fact that Danny Mason was permitted to easily pass through the checkpoint outside Belmopan on his return from his Outback Ranch at around 5:15 pm?
It simply does not add up.
Danny Mason was the opposite of invisible. Mason and his pick-up were inordinately well-known to police in Belize due to his wide-ranging support of the police force. If the Tax Office robbery alert was genuine, then Danny Mason should have been easily stopped much earlier at the roadcheck en route to Belmopan.
One need only follow the bouncing ball of logic to conclude it was not a matter of luck that police found a severed head on ice in the back of the pick-up.
Because they must have put it there.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has making excuses for John Saldivar for years. In the aftermath of the murder charges, Barrow dismissed the nationwide knowledge that Saldivar and Danny Mason had been close associates (until Mason agreed to host a victory party for Patrick Faber) by saying, “He [Saldivar] was perhaps conned into this acquaintance-slash-friendship with this individual in the same way that many of us, including some additional ministers, were.” In fact, as anyone can see by viewing the contract for co-ownership of the Belmopan Bandits in the APPENDIX, the pair were 70% (Saldivar) and 30% (Mason) co-owners. They had more than an “acquaintance-slash-friendship.”
What remains extraordinary is the fact that the Prime Minister of Belize was been continuously willing to participate in a process of propagandist collusion, sometimes vowing to take Saldivar to task, but ultimately giving him a wide berth, ultimately providing sufficient leeway to enable Saldivar become his successor. Any rational political observer can only wonder why Prime Minister Dean Barrow has been willing to stoop so low.
#15 INCOMPETENCE OF DEFENCE COUNSEL
In non-corrupt legal jurisdictions on the planet, there would be a strong likelihood of overturning Magistrate Moore’s verdict at the Appeal Court level by citing the alarming degree of overall incompetence exhibited and perpetrated by defence counsel in the trial.
Example of “unprofessional errors” are legion in this case.
If, for example:
— it can be shown that no lawyer for the defence raised the issues in the preceding fourteen arguments (ie. such as the ice not having melted)
— and if, for example, there is any proof that a defence lawyer actively suppressed vital evidence (ie. refusing to procure a roadblock witness
— and if, for example, defence attorneys chose not to challenge the admission of surveillance video which was altered to suit the prosecution’s case (a half-hour of critical evidence from the video was excised)
— and if, for example, defence counsel chose to suppress the evidence that Souad Lindo of Lindo Law and her assistant forced Melissa Ferguson into hiding (and they facilitated the looting of files from the accused’s home)
— and if defence counsel did not object when Magistrate Moore herself acted as a witness for the prosecution, claiming to identify the accused on the basis of body movements (when the faces of those moving around the pick-up truck under the house were not identifiable)
— and if, for example, defence counsel chose to ignore the exceptional liberties taken by police in terms of mishandling evidence, telling lies, concealing important details in their reports and fomenting public alarm…
surely the Court of Appeal process cannot be a hasty one.
Any one of these factors could result in an acquittal for the co-accused.
In this case, it would be possible to convince a viable Court of Appeal that all of these factors require close scrutiny.
(The decision made by defence not to put Danny Mason on the witness stand, in retrospect, also has to be questioned.)
According to American standards:
- The proper standard for judging attorney performance is that of reasonably effective assistance, considering all the circumstance. When a convicted defendant complains of the ineffectiveness of counsel’s assistance, the defendant must show that counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Judicial scrutiny of counsel’s performance must be highly deferential, and a fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel’s challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel’s perspective at the time. A court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel’s conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. These standards require no special amplification in order to define counsel’s duty to investigate, the duty at issue this case.
- With regard to the required showing of prejudice, the proper standard requires the defendant to show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome. A court hearing an effectiveness claim must consider the totality of the evidence before the judge or jury.
- A number of practical considerations are important for the application of the standards set forth above. The standards do not establish mechanical rules: the ultimate focus of inquiry must be on the fundamental fairness of the proceeding whose result is being challenged. A court need not first determine whether counsel’s performance was deficient before examining the prejudice suffered by the defendant as a result of the alleged deficiencies.
If anyone reading this inquiry to this juncture does not conclude that defence attorneys “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness” they would have to a friend of Russell Blackett, John Saldivar or Dean Barrow. Compounding the almost complete lack of defence representation were the following failures: No demanding of full disclosure, no honest prosecution disclosure (known as ‘the Brady Rule’ in the U.S.), no independent forensic analysis, no real cross-examination, no calling of evidence, independent or otherwise, no proffering of any theory of the case by any defence counsel.
There appears to have been a complete failure of any defence counsel in the proceedings to do their job with even a semblance of professionalism and competence.