Verdict Finally Reached in Laddie Gillett’s Murder Trial
The quiet of the Belize High Court in Belmopan was disrupted this morning as Justice Antoinette Moore rendered a guilty verdict against Police Corporal Kareem Martinez. It has been almost two years since 14-year-old, Laddie Gillett was killed on the beach in Placencia whilst vacationing with his family. The death of the young student caused a national stir, and his family unrelentingly seeking justice for his death. Corporal Martinez was charged for the crime of manslaughter and had since been placed on interdiction from the Belize Police Department. Multiple testimonies were heard during the trial, and today the matter concluded. Reporter Vejea Alvarez was at the courthouse; here is his report.
It was an emotional day for the family of 14-year-old Laddie Gillett as High Justice Antoinette Moore delivered a guilty verdict in the manslaughter trial against former cop, Kareem Martinez. The Seine Bight Villager was found guilty of fatally shooting the minor on July 14, 2021, while Gillett was walking on a beach in Placencia Village with his friend 19-year-old Thomas Palacio. Laddie’s Grandmother, Lucy Fleming, says for the family it was an end to their almost two-year quest for justice
Lucy Fleming, Laddie’s Grandmother: “I thought the judge did a wonderful job on outlining everything so clearly for us, taking her time. I mean she really dotted all her I’s crossed her T’s and she made it very clear to us that she really looked at everything that everyone said to come up with her conclusion which of course we were very delighted to hear.”
And, while Gillett’s family was pleased with the ruling, Martinez’s attorney, Oscar Selgado, says he is of the opinion that the Judge did not appreciate and take into account all the evidence that was presented by both the crown and the defense.
Oscar Selgado, Attorney for Martinez: “The police department started off this entire case by doing a very poor investigation. Simply because two officers Claude Augustine and Michael Miranda went out there and said “I did not have a firearm.” or “I did not fire a firearm.” the police swallowed that line, hook and sinker. They did not send any of the firearms that were taken by Miranda and Claude Augustine for ballistic examination and a court properly directed, a jury properly directed in this case a judge sitting as a jury can only dispel doubt if there is reasonable grounds to believe that the crown’s evidence was real and in this case only one weapon was sent to the ballistic examiner for analysis.”
Prior to delivering her judgment, Justice Moore gave an overview of the deciding factors in this case. She noted that she found the testimonies of the police officers as ‘fantastical’ taking into account only portions of their testimonies and that it was clear that those officers were trying to distance themselves from the accused. The defense relied on their claim that Martinez did not fire the shot that killed Gillett. However, Justice Moore stated that she had no doubt that Martinez was the officer who shot and killed the minor. Richard “Dickie” Bradley, who was hired by Gillett’s family to assist Crown Counsel Javier Chan, says the evidence proved exactly that.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney: “The trial judge has said that police officers who came to testify to her court and some of them are dishonest and tried to deceive and mislead the court but in the end the evidence was so strong that the suggestion that a bullet can go up in the air and come backward then go horizontal is contrary to common sense and contrary to the testimony of the ballistic expert that came to court twice to clarify any concerns. This bullet went through Laddie Gillet from a horizontal angle and all the evidence is in favor of the verdict.”
Gillett’s friend, Thomas Palacio, was one of the witnesses at the scene, and according to the judge, she found his testimony more accurate than that of the police officers. Selgado says he too agrees that the officer was dishonest but doesn’t accept that his client killed Gillett.
Oscar Selgado, Attorney for Martinez: “I’m holding on to my defense that he did not fire that fatal shot and the crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt he fired that fatal shot. The judge looked at the evidence and the judge believed that because no other expended shell was recovered and simply because the other witnesses Claude Martinez and Miranda who went out and said “I did not take a firearm and even if I took a firearm I did not fire my firearm.” the judge believed their evidence totally. And I am saying there’s no ballistic proof that the crown had laid to convince the court, the judge, to have swallowed that evidence line, hook and sinker.”
Selgado will now be hoping to appeal the decision but neither Bradley nor Gillett’s family says they are not fazed by his claim.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney: “Justice Antoinette Moore is seldom disagree with at the Court of Appeal and the other one is that that judgment today which went up until midday according to the court clock that was so impeccable and covered every angle and you all heard the testimony in the court, the testimony is just too strong. It is unlikely on appeal that a court of appeal could say that the justice had erred in those matters.”
And, while Gillett’s family can now rest easier knowing his killer has faced justice, Bryony Fleming-Bradley, Laddie Foster’s Mother, says their wounds remain and the pain of his loss continues to haunt them but the support has been overwhelming and has assisted them throughout the journey
Bryony Fleming-Bradley, Laddie’s Foster Mother: “My now five year old son of course is constantly still asking for Laddie every day of his life and the other day he actually just told me “Mama can we go up and see if Laddie’s bones are still there because I want to see him one last time.” So it’s been quite difficult but we’re as a family we’re extremely strong, we’re getting through it and we have wonderful people the Belizean community, the kids in this country, everybody who has stood by us from the beginning through the end I mean everybody in Belize has given us that strength.”
Additionally, the judge stated that she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the crown proved the four elements of manslaughter and proved that Martinez was the cop who unlawfully killed the minor and cut his life short. Vejea Alvarez, Love News.
A date is yet to be set for Martinez’s sentencing.