Justice Moore’s decision to hand down a guilty verdict on mason and his co-defendants for the brutal killing of pastor Llewellyn Lucas brought a sigh of relief among many Belizeans but if the maximum sentence is not granted which is death by hanging in accordance with the laws of Belize for intentional murder it will be forgotten.
By: Wellington C. Ramos
Adjunct Professor History and Political Science and
Former NCO I/C Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB),
Orange Walk District, Belize Police Force.
Supreme Court Justice Antoinette Moore A Woman With Dignity
In all the time I spent in the Belize Police Force from 1973 to 1978, I was part and was the head of many murder investigations in Orange Walk District and Belize City Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB). At that time Orange Walk District had the most murders in the entire country of Belize and the majority of them were drug related. The bodies of the individuals found were in parts and sometimes could not be identified because they were decomposed. Never in the history of Belize, have I heard of anybody killing a person in our country and then driving around with the person’s head in a bucket in his or her vehicle as if a human life means nothing to him or her. Because most murders were drug related, many people were afraid to come forward and cooperate with the police due to fear of their own lives.
Many of those murders became unsolved crimes and the loss of several human lives to multiple families in that town. The taking of any human life for no justifiable reason is something we should all be against as law abiding citizens of our country. In Belize today and especially in the city, it has become a routine to take a person’s innocent life for no justifiable reason. People have become accustomed to at least three or more deaths per day. It is our responsibility as citizens of Belize, to come together and demand from our government that this come to an end.
Under the Belize Constitution and Laws, the death penalty is still valid until our government amend the Constitution and change the Laws. A person who committed intentional murder during my time, was charged under Section-100 of Chapter-21 of our Criminal Code Revised Edition 1958. If a person was found guilty under this Section, the presiding Judge would sentence that person to a mandatory death penalty by hanging. The lawyer for the accused person or persons, would have to file an appeal before the Belize Court of Appeals to prevent the convicted person from being hanged. If the Court of Appeals upheld the sentence, then the lawyer would have to file another appeal before the Privy Council Court in London, England to stop the execution, which was our last court for all appeals during that time.
If they lost the case in that court, then the person will be hanged. The murder rate in Belize was extremely low then, compared to today because many people were afraid to be hanged. The last person that was hanged in Belize was Kent Bowers on June 19th 1985 for the killing of Robert Codd. Since his hanging we have had over 100 murders and nobody was hanged. According to my research, the last person that was sentenced to death by hanging and had a successful appeal was Glenford Baptist who was convicted for murder in 2001. In the year 2015 his case was taken to the Belize Court of Appeals for cruel and inhumane treatment due to the sentence and the time spent back and forth in courts to decide whether he was going to be hanged or be given a lesser sentence. A stay of his execution was granted to him and he was given life in prison. There might be more Belizeans sentenced to death who are just sitting in prison serving time with their fate in limbo.
The Government of Belize did not appeal the Judge’s Baptist ruling at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) neither amended the Constitution and Laws to remove the death penalty and to replace the sentence to life in prison without parole. As a result, the punishment for intentionally killing a person in Belize is still death by hanging. I am not aware of any legal precedent under the Belize Rules of Evidence, that gives a judge the discretion to give a person any other sentence but hanging. After the judge gives the sentence, the lawyers for the convicted persons, must appeal the sentence to the Belize Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice for a reduction of that sentence.
On June 1, 2010, the Belize Government under the United Democratic Party’s National Assembly, amended our Constitution to make the Caribbean Court of Justice the final court for our country on all matters. Lawyers in Belize have taken several cases to the Privy Council Court in London to stop people that were sentenced to be hanged to be given a lesser sentence. Many of those cases resulted in a ruling not to carry out the death penalty and time in prison. I am not certain if any Belizean lawyer have taken a death penalty case to the Caribbean Court of Justice to seek a reprieve on a death penalty sentence.
Judge Moore is in a tough seat because she has to decide whether to give these five men the death penalty or time in prison. If I was her, I would apply the law and sentence them to death by hanging. Then, let their lawyers decide if they want to proceed to the Belize Court of Appeals and the Caribbean Court of Justice for a reduction of the sentence. Judges are there to enforce our Constitution and our Laws and not to change them based on their discretion. Knowing her, I am more than confident that she will hand down the proper sentence.