Crime — 22 October 2013 — by Kareem Clarke
Cop gets $3,000 fine for manslaughter conviction

The judge also recommended that he be reinstated as a police officer

The long-awaited sentencing of a former police constable, Burton Caliz, 30, was finally delivered, and amounted to a fine in lieu of further jail time, and a recommendation for his reinstatement in the Belize Police Department.

The sentencing took place in the Supreme Court in Belize City in front of Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez. Caliz had been charged for the manslaughter of San Pedro resident, Leroy Pilgrim. He, Caliz, was found guilty of manslaughter by negligence in the shooting death of Pilgrim, and after waiting to hear his fate for over two weeks, he left the court smiling, since he was fined $3,000 instead of being given a custodial sentence, which would have meant no more than 5 years behind bars. The fine was ordered to be paid by January of 2014.

His attorney, Dickie Bradley, had applied for the sentencing to be deferred in order for the defense to gather witnesses for mitigation pleas for his client. Two individuals spoke on behalf of Caliz; they are Joseph Supaul, 31, a teacher/farmer of Big Falls, Toledo; and Candido Chun, 39, the Regional Coordinator for the Sustainable Harvest International Program in Toledo. The witnesses spoke highly of Caliz, and made reference to the fact that he (Caliz) is the current Chairman of the Mafredi Community Village Council, and that he is also a family man with a common-law wife and two children. During the hearing, Caliz’s attorney also pointed out that his client has already served a total of 32 months on remand since being charged for the crime back in 2004.

Before the sentence was handed down, Justice Gonzalez recommended to Caliz that he should re-apply for his job at the Police Department, and that he should be “favourably considered.” The judge further informed Caliz that after consideration of the mitigation pleas made on his behalf, his view was that he could not impose a custodial sentence.

On February 12, 2004, Burton Caliz, a police officer at the time, reportedly shot and killed Leroy Pilgrim while in the line of duty. During the case, witnesses for the prosecution testified that Pilgrim shouted out that the gun the officers claimed that they found was not his because he was not armed, and that the gun in question, a .38 revolver, was what the police were supposedly trying to plant on him that night. Not long after Pilgrim was shot in the back of the head in the lagoon area of the island.

Caliz, Jr., was initially charged with manslaughter and spent 18 months on remand, but later the charge was upgraded to murder, after which he served 14 months in prison. He was then tried and found guilty of manslaughter back in 2005, and was sentenced to 10 years. He successfully appealed his conviction, and the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal, after which a retrial was ordered to take place.

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