General — 21 March 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Court of Appeal affirms murder conviction of Dionicio “Life” Salazar

The case, however, is remitted to the Supreme Court for new sentencing

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 19, 2018– The Court of Appeal handed down its decision in the appeal of convicted murderer Dionicio “Life” Salazar, who had filed an appeal against his conviction and the life sentence that was imposed upon him by Supreme Court Justice Antoinette Moore at the conclusion of his trial on May 6, 2016.

Salazar was convicted for the June 2010 murder of Marlon Rivera, which occurred at Belmore Hotel in San Ignacio. Rivera was shot and killed.

Court of Appeal president, Hon. Mr. Justice Manuel Sosa, along with Justices of Appeal, Hon. Madam Justice Minnet Hafiz Bertram and Hon. Mr. Justice Murrio Ducille, heard the appeal and said at the end of their 33-page judgment, “In the opinion of the Court, the appellant is entitled to be sentenced pursuant to section 106A of the Criminal Code. The Court therefore remits the sentencing of the appellant to the Supreme Court pursuant to section 106A for the fixing of a minimum term of imprisonment, which he shall serve before becoming eligible for parole.

“The appeal against the conviction of the appellant is dismissed and the conviction affirmed. The sentencing of the appellant is allowed and is remitted to the Supreme Court pursuant to section 106a of the Criminal Code, Chapter 101, for the fixing of a minimum term of imprisonment which he shall serve before becoming eligible for parole.”

Senior Crown Counsel, Sheiniza Smith, argued the respondent’s case, while Salazar was represented by attorney Anthony Sylvestre.

Sylvestre filed 3 grounds of appeal on behalf of Salazar. The first ground was, “The learned trial judge failed to direct her mind properly as to the weight to be attached to the untested deposition of Dean Dougal.”  The second ground was that, “The learned trial judge erred in considering the transcript of previous testimony of defense witness Verona Usher and this amounted to a material irregularity in the trial below.”

Thirdly, Sylvestre argued that “The sentence of life imprisonment passed is unlawful and unconstitutional for reasons explained in Criminal Appeal No. 22 of 2012, Gregory August v The Queen.”

“Mr. Sylvestre submitted that the appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment without a mitigation hearing. He relied on the case of Gregory August, Criminal Appeal No. 22 of 2012, and submitted that the appeal should be remitted back to the Supreme Court for a proper mitigation hearing and the sentencing court to pass the appropriate sentence. Since the judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice is still pending in relation to August appeal, this Court will refrain from relying on same. Counsel further submitted that the appellant can be sentenced under the new section 106A of the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act, 2017,” stated a summary of the judgment from the Court of Appeal justices.

Crown Counsel Smith submitted that she agrees that the appellant’s case should be remitted to the Supreme Court so that he could be sentenced in accordance with section 106a of Act 22 of 2017.

In the past before the law was amended, when a convicted murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment, it literally meant that such a person would remain in prison until he or she died. The amendment to the law, however, makes provisions for persons convicted of murder and who are sentenced to life in prison to be released on parole, after they have served a specific portion of their sentence.

In their discussion, the Appeal Justices noted that “On 29 March, 2017 the Criminal Code [Amendment] Act 2017 and the Indictable Procedure [Amendment] Act 2017 came into force. These amendments introduced a new sentencing regime. The Criminal Code [Amendment] Act 2017, [No. 22 of 2017] dated 29 March 2017, is an Act to amend the Criminal Code, Chapter 101, ‘to make provision for, among other things, the specification of a minimum term of years, which an offender sentenced to life imprisonment for murder shall serve before the offender can become eligible to be released on parole’.”

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