BDF soldier’s trial for rape halted

Lieutenant of the Belize Defence Force, Ruhesi Elijio, began trial in the Supreme Court this week, but today it was halted by Justice Troadio Gonzalez after some disturbing news came to light. Elijio is charged with the rape of a female colleague in the Force on the Price Barracks compound almost 5 years ago. However, the forelady of the nine-person jury hearing the case told Justice Gonzalez today that a male juror, during the complainant’s testimony on the stand on Monday, allegedly stated, it is not clear to whom, that he knows she was telling lies. It is indicative of prejudice in favour of the accused, which could have easily poisoned deliberations long before they started – even before the complainant’s evidence was finished. Justice Gonzalez stated in court that the juror had, quote, “formed his own opinion during the vlcsnap-2016-02-18-13h37m27s018testimony of the victim before she could conclude,” end quote, which he was not allowed to do under the legal principle of presumption of innocence. Speaking to the jurors, he further stated, “The law says that justice should not only be done, but also be seen (to be done).” With that, Justice Gonzalez stopped the trial and discharged the 6 men and 3 women on the jury and traversed Elijio’s case to the next sitting of the Supreme Court set to commence in April. Prosecutor in the case, Sheneiza Smith had already called both the complainant and investigating officer to testify; the court had also visited the locus or crime scene, located in Price Barracks, Ladyville; that is, the complainant’s room within the officers’ quarters. Elijio, represented by Oscar Selgado had also sworn testimony in which he said that at no time did he rape the woman and that he never had sex with her, denying even being in her room at any time during the night she alleges he raped her. The alleged incident took place following an event on the Price Barracks compound. Lieutenant Ruhesi Elijio is presently on interdiction and will remain so until his case is fully tried.

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