Back in October of 2015, Tyrone Meighan, Orel Leslie and Brandon Baptist were all freed from the murder charge levied against them. The trio was charged for the murder of 28 year old James Noralez. They were acquitted by Justice John Troadio Gonzalez but that decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal. The trio’s attorney, Anthony Sylvester and Bryan Neal appealed that decision, taking the matter to the Caribbean Court of Justice. Today, via teleconference, the Justices of the Caribbean Court of Justice upheld the Court of Appeal decision and ordered a retrial. Director of Public Prosecution, Cheryl Lynn Vidal, shared details.
Cheryl Lynn Vidal – DPP
“We maintained at the trial that there was sufficient evidence to call the accused to answer to the charges. The judge disagreed with us and where there is that kind of disagreement if we feel strongly, the law allows us to take it before a higher court and we did so, we succeeded sat the higher court. We thought that was the end of that and they would have simply been retried but there were these applications because the defense was of a different view but the court agreed with our position that there was in fact suifficient evidence to call upon them to answer to the charge. So the matter will go back to the Supreme Court before a different judge obviously to be tried.”
While they were unsuccessful, Neal and Sylvestre spoke about the importance of the case.
Anthony Sylvester – Attorney
“There were in our view no guidance that was given with respect to how a trial judge is to approach. When during the course of a trial an accused or accused counsel forms the view that he or she ought not to be subjected to answering to a charge and so it was a very important application because that is a very important legal principle that affects hundreds of persons who are in the criminal justice system so we felt that it was important to have the highest court in the land give some judicial guidance in terms of that particular point and I think that will be forthcoming in their judgment although as has indicated that we weren’t successful in the application which was before the court.”
Bryan Neal – Attorney
“This is a very important principle because in Belize they have erased over 1000 years of legal history in that we no longer have trials by jury for serious offences. Now yes the application for leave has been refused by the Caribbean Court of Justice but in making a ruling or a written judgment they can make obiter dictum statements about the principles that we have raised and one of the principles we raised is the fact that now that a trial judge is sitting alone does he have to give reasons for decisions that he makes juries don’t give reasons. You’ve been in court and you’ve seen them get up ”What say you the verdict, guilty or not guilty.” What is the proper role of a judge now that the parliament has stopped jury trials for murder and attempted murder.”
Norales was found near the Faber’s Road junction with the Western Highway. He had shot multiple times.