In opening its first session of the year 2014, the Court of Appeal this morning set aside the order of trial judge Denis Hanoman Singh issued two years ago and ordered the immediate sentencing of Wilbert Cuellar, who was found guilty of the attempted murder of Mr. Josue Chay.
In December of 2011, Cuellar and Darwin Diaz, convicted by a jury of nine, appeared before Justice Hanoman Singh in Corozal Town for sentencing.
Mr. Diaz was given twelve years but the Judge said it would not be fair to sentence Cuellar because he felt that a certain witness identified in the deposition would have been helpful to his and the jurors’ views of the case, but had not been called by the prosecution though he was mentioned.
Any time served by Cuellar, the judge said, would be unjust, and so the judge set Cuellar free.
DPP Cheryl-Lynn Vidal appealed and this morning, attorney for Cuellar, Michelle Trapp-Zuniga, conceded that the judge’s actions were not correct and said that for all concerned, the best option would be to remove the order and let the sentencing happen.
Cuellar was out free during the time between his aborted sentencing and today’s hearing, but was ordered back into custody at the Hattieville Prison until he can be sentenced in the current session of the Northern Division of the Court.
Mr. Chay was viciously chopped on the arms and head at a football field in Orange Walk and Cuellar is alleged to have hit him in the head with a cement block. In this afternoon’s session, Diaz, who was unrepresented, was asked by President Sosa to state his grounds of appeal.
He insisted that he was not involved in the incident and that someone else was responsible. Director Vidal maintained that the evidence put forward at trial was strong and sufficient to convict Diaz and so the appeal was dismissed.
However, Diaz found better success with his appeal against his 12 year sentence, as the court agreed that the trial judge should have considered the four months Diaz was jailed before being released on bail pending trial.
The sentence was set aside and a sentence of 11 years and 8 months was set in its place, running from September 23, 2011, which means that Diaz has served two years and four months of his sentence.