BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 15, 2016–This morning, Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas handed down a not guilty verdict in the murder trial by judge without jury of Shane Gillett, 30, accused of killing Samuel Price, 84, the brother of Belize’s first Prime Minister and National Hero, Rt. Hon. George Price.
In delivering his judgment, Justice Lucas briefly summarized the prosecution evidence that was led by Crown Counsels Portia Staine and Sherigne Rodriguez.
On Saturday, April 16, 2011, a nephew of Price went to check on him and found it strange that he was not outside waiting. The nephew alerted two other family members, and when they finally went inside, along with a police officer, they found that Price’s house was in a bloody mess. He was found lying in a pool of blood, dead in his bathroom.
Price had suffered blunt force trauma to his head, Dr. Hugh Sanchez, the pathologist who performed an autopsy on Price, concluded.
More than five months after the murder, on September 4, 2011, Ladyville Police arrested the accused, Shane Gillett, a resident of Burrell Boom, who had allegedly mentioned to his neighbor, Natalie Hyde, that he was the one who had killed the old man near Haulover Bridge.
Justice Lucas noted that a sample of Gillett’s fingerprints was not taken, although when the murder was initially committed, the fingerprints of three other suspects were taken and compared with the fingerprints police found at Price’s house.
Justice Lucas said he found it strange that Gillett’s fingerprints were not compared, although he had reportedly confessed to committing the murder.
“The Crown relied on two confessions made by the accused. One of the confessions was made to Ms. Natalie Hyde and the other was a statement under caution to Sergeant Lino,” Justice Lucas said.
Justice Lucas said, though, that Hyde’s testimony was tested under cross-examination by the defense counsel and her answers were inconsistent.
“She left out quite a number of important matters [that were] in the statement that she gave to the police,” the judge observed. “So her evidence [before the court] was inconsistent with the statement she gave to police.”
Undoubtedly, the inconsistencies between Ms. Hyde’s statement to the police and her testimony in court are not trivial, the judge observed.
“They are serious, and I do not believe her excuse that the police did not write down everything that she said, in terms of the gaps in her testimony. The seriousness of Ms. Hyde’s inconsistencies makes her evidence unreliable,” Justice Lucas explained.
Justice Lucas then turned his attention to the caution statement that the accused gave to the police on September 6, 2011.
“The accused gave sworn testimony. He denied giving any statement to the police. During his time at the Ladyville Police Station, he was not fed. I pause here to mention that Sergeant Sutherland took him out of his cell and beat him and showed him the pictures of the deceased. Sutherland said that the accused called him when he was in his office. So I asked him how the accused knows his voice… how often he had spoken to the accused. He said, ‘No, I have not spoken to the accused’.
“The accused was in detention in Ladyville on Sunday, September 4. Three police officers had contact with the accused, namely Sergeant Sutherland, Sergeant Keith Clarke, and Sergeant Lino, and they did not give any food to the accused,” Justice Lucas summarized.
The judge said that an interviewer who will take a statement from an accused person should inquire from him whether he had eaten before a statement is taken, especially under the circumstances.
“In an admission at any time by a person charged with any crime, the prosecution must prove to the satisfaction of the judge that the statement was freely given.
“The accused had not eaten for a little over 35 hours when the statement was taken, under stressful circumstances. There is reasonable doubt that the statement was freely given. I hold that the statement given by the accused was obtained by improper means,” Lucas said.
The judge ruled that the accused was not guilty of the indictment.
“That is my ruling,” he concluded.