Police officers Corporal Renel Grant, Corporal Nelson Middleton, Sergeant Lawrence Humes, and Sergeant Jacinto Roches; former Customs boatman Harold Usher, and civilian Victor Logan, were accused of facilitating one of the largest cocaine busts on record in Belize.
A plane famously landed on the Southern Highway on November 13, 2010, and nearby police and BDF found 80 bales of suspected cocaine – about 29,000 kilos, with a street value of close to $170 million Belize dollars.
But after trial in 2012 Justice Denis Hanomansingh refused to send the case to the jury on charges of abetment to import a controlled drug, believing that the men had no case to answer. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions duly filed an appeal and it was heard in part today by President of the Court of Appeal Manuel Sosa and Justices Samuel Awich and Dennis Morrison.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal argued two grounds; first, that there was a miscarriage of justice that caused the prosecution to be denied a fair opportunity to put their evidence before the court and the jury.
Justice Hanomansingh opposed several applications by Crown prosecutor Cecil Ramirez that the DPP argues would have changed the nature of the case. Additionally, the DPP argues that the trial was so unfairly conducted that it potentially poisoned the jury’s minds, predisposing them to return a certain verdict.
Justice Hanomansingh personally intervened above and beyond his normal duty to question certain witnesses, comment on the demeanor and evidence of witnesses and the prosecution, denying the prosecution the right to call a certain witness because he was supposedly unprepared to ask questions of that witness, and advising defense counsel as to strategy on the case.
The DPP says she personally has not seen the judge’s decision on delaying a witness in all her years in prosecution, and that his behaviour made it difficult to differentiate between the judge and the advocates on either side.
The Crown does not have a right to be favored, she argued, but it does have a right exercised under its burden of proof to properly present its case.
The case resumes on Friday following the court’s ruling in the Lavern Longsworth case but may be called before then as the Court winds down its mid-year session with two civil appeals before the final day of judgment on Friday.