Headline — 17 February 2015 — by Rowland A. Parks
Cop sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 16, 2015–A jury deliberated for more than four hours on Friday in the murder trial of Police Special Constable Alpheus Parham, who has been charged with the 2010 murder of Alex Goff, before returning to the courtroom of Supreme Court Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez to announce their unanimous not guilty of murder verdict.

The jury, however, reached a unanimous guilty of manslaughter verdict.

This afternoon, Monday, Justice Gonzalez heard a mitigation plea from Parham’s attorney, Simeon Sampson, S.C., who suggested that Parham should only be sentenced to the time he had already spent in prison, and sent home.

Parham gave an expression of regret along with an apology to the family of the deceased.

Justice Gonzalez then sentenced Parham to 10 years in prison. He stipulated that Parham, who has been on remand since 2010, will have 5 years deducted from his sentence, the time he spent in prison; he will, therefore, only serve 5 more years in prison.

Alex Goff, 31, was shot once in the head with a .38 revolver on Sunday, May 2010, sometime around 5:00 p.m. inside the Caye Caulker Police Station holding cell, where he had been detained pending charges of disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer.

There was no eyewitness to the killing, and the Crown’s case, which was presented by Crown Counsel Leroy Banner, was based purely upon circumstantial evidence.

Last Monday, after the prosecution closed its case, Sampson made a no case to answer submission, but two days later, Justice Gonzalez ruled that Parham had a case to answer.

In his defense, Parham gave an unsworn statement from the prisoner’s dock. In his statement, Parham told the court that he had gone into the cell to speak to Goff, who was making a lot of noise and indicated that he wanted to use the bathroom.

Parham said that once inside the cell, Goff attempted to take his revolver from him, saying “I wan kill you.”

Parham said that he struggled with Goff for about four minutes and the gun accidentally went off, hitting Goff in the forehead.

There was, however, no mention of a struggle inside the cell from two of the police witnesses who testified during the trial.

One police officer, Juan Choc, who was working at the station when Goff was killed, gave police investigators a statement in which he said he saw when Parham walked to the cell and he heard two men talking. Then there was a loud bang, he said, which sounded like a gunshot coming from inside the cell.

In his testimony at the trial, Choc said that he saw when Parham walked to the cell and he heard the voices of two men talking, and then suddenly, a loud bang that sounded like a gunshot was heard.

Another police witness, PC Federico Tush, had testified that he was at the desk when Parham went to the cell where Goff was being held.

In his testimony, however, Tush only said that he heard a gunshot and took cover under the desk, and that when he went to the cell, he saw a man covered in blood. Tush, however, did not indicate in his testimony that he saw Parham enter the cell.

In his summation of the evidence for the jury, Justice Gonzalez reminded them about the testimony of the police witness who had seen Parham enter the cell. When he exited the cell, the officer, according to his testimony, asked Parham what had happened, but he testified that Parham walked away without answering.

Justice Gonzalez also reminded the jury about the testimony of police pathologist Dr. Mario Estradabran, who testified that in his expert opinion, Goff was shot while he was in a seated position. Dr. Estradabran told the court that he came to that conclusion because of the pattern of blood splattered on the wall of the cell.

Dr. Estradabran suggested that the gun which shot Goff was fired from a horizontal position.

“I find that there is much to be desired in that portion of the evidence of the doctor,” Justice Gonzalez told the jury.

Dr. Estradabran testified that the shooting was point blank and that Goff died instantly.

At the sentencing hearing today, Justice Gonzalez told Parham, “I have heard your plea for leniency and also your apology to the family of the deceased. However, the crime of manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, but the courts in this jurisdiction have never imposed this sentence.”

“You were charged with murder and the jury returns a guilty of manslaughter verdict; it appeared that the jury accepted the defense of provocation,” Justice Gonzalez told Parham.

“If it was left to me, I would give you the same sentence Mr. Sampson suggested to me, but judges have to be careful and we have to send a message out there…I find myself compelled to impose a sentence of 10 years, 5 years that you have already spent and 5 more years. I empathize with you. I am compelled to do my duty,” Justice Gonzalez told the convicted cop.

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