General — 24 June 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
Court hears GOB appeal in case of award granted to street figures

2 of the 3 men are deceased; judgment reserved for a later date

A successful lawsuit against the government which was won by three well-known street figures – 2 of whom are now deceased – in November 2011 was later appealed by the Government of Belize (GOB), and that case went before the Court of Appeal today. However, after arguments from both sides were heard, judgment has been reserved for a date to be announced.

The three men – Shelton “Pinky” Tillett, Charles Woodeye, and Micah Thompson – successfully sued GOB for wrongful imprisonment after the Supreme Court ruled that they were wrongfully accused of the 2009 murder of John Paul Saldivar, 28, which occurred on Ambergris Caye.

Tillett, Woodeye and Thompson were charged for Saldivar’s murder, and after 11 months on remand at the Belize Central Prison, they were set free in January of 2010, with no case to answer, since the case against them did not proceed to trial due to a lack of evidence.

The trio subsequently sued the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police and the Officer Commanding San Pedro Formation at the time, Dennis Arnold, and after Justice Minnett Hafiz ruled in their favor, each was awarded $25,000 dollars, and Woodeye was additionally compensated for loss of wages. However, Tillett and Woodeye were killed in separate incidents before they could collect their award.

The Attorney General’s office subsequently appealed the case and today, it was heard before President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Manuel Sosa, and Justices Dennis Morrison and Samuel Awich.

The Government’s side, represented by Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke and Crown Counsel Illiana Swift, argued that damages should have been limited to the one hour each men spent in detention before being remanded on murder charges in the death of John Paul Saldivar in January of 2009, while attorney for the defense, Agnes Segura-Gillett, defended the judgment of Hafiz-Bertram – who now sits on the Court of Appeal – and presented points based on testimonials by Tillett and Thompson, who had complained about the mental and physical anguish that the incarceration had caused them following being put in the remand section of the prison.

The court questioned both sides on past cases involving quantum of damages offered, and Gillett even put forward a request for consideration for a bigger award in the sum of $200,000 per client due to the conditions that the complainants allegedly endured while they were incarcerated.

On the day before Saldivar’s body was discovered, Tillett and Micah Thompson were found near the Boca Del Rio Bridge in San Pedro with US$33,000 in cash, which they told police was going to be used to buy a Polaris ATV.

Woodeye was later murdered in broad daylight while playing dominoes inside a fire station at the corner of Warree and Dolphin Streets in Belize City in August of 2011, while Tillett and a female friend were gunned down at a gas station on the George Price Highway in April of 2012.

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