BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 19, 2015–Jermaine Belgrave, 33, a Taylor’s Alley resident, was acquitted of murder this afternoon after Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas, who heard the case without a jury, found that he could not rely on a witness statement that had been given to police by the deceased, Cleo “Sick Bitch” Robinson, who was shot on the night of February 23, 2010, and died one year and four months later, on June 30, 2011. Robinson’s statement, however, was admitted into the prosecution’s evidence against the accused.
The trial of Jermaine Belgrave, who was indicted for causing the June 30, 2011 death of Robinson, 35, began before Justice Lucas on Thursday, March 5.
On the night of February 23, 2010, Robinson was shot multiple times as he rode his bicycle on Glynn Street. Robinson, after sustaining gunshot injuries to the upper and lower back areas and to the abdomen, was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital by a Belize Emergency Response Team (BERT) ambulance, before scenes of crime technicians and police arrived to process the scene.
Scenes of Crime technician Raymond Myers’ five photographs of the crime scene were admitted into the prosecution’s evidence. Myers testified that he photographed a black and white beach cruiser bicycle in the drain on Glynn Street. He also photographed and swabbed a red substance, suspected to be blood, from off the street.
Another prosecution witness, Joel Robinson, 39, a brother of the murdered man, testified that on June 30, 2011, his mother called him and told him to check on his brother, Cleo, who had been left paralyzed as a consequence of the gunshot injuries he had suffered sixteen months before.
Robinson told the court that when he saw his brother, “He was lying in a fetal position and was not moving or breathing.” He had no pulse and Robinson concluded that he was dead.
“I called a person who deals with dead bodies and he arrived and picked up the body and left in a station wagon,” Robinson testified.
Janice Lynch, Cleo Robinson’s common-law wife, testified that after he was released from the hospital, he lived with her at her Dolphin Street home, but he had been left paralyzed and was unable to do anything for himself. He lived with her for about 13 months before he went to live with his mother.
The prosecution built up its case on the identity of Robinson with the testimonies from his brother, his common-law wife and the police officer, Rudy Melendrez, who recorded Robinson’s statement, and who testified that he recorded two statements from him at his Dolphin Street address.
One month and two days after he was shot, Robinson, while still undergoing treatment at the KHMH, gave a statement to police fingering Belgrave as the man who shot him.
Belgrave was initially charged for the attempted murder of Cleo Robinson. He was also charged with, use of deadly means of harm and dangerous harm, when he was first arrested in August 2010. Those charges, however, were upgraded to murder when Robinson died on June 30, 2011.
There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, and the prosecution’s case, led by Crown Counsel Shanice Lovell, who was assisted by Crown Counsel Sabita Majaraj, relied heavily on the statement Robinson had given to police.
When the legal arguments between Lovell and Belgrave’s attorney Anthony Sylvestre, were over, Justice Lucas ruled to admit Robinson’s statement as part of the evidence against Belgrave.
In his statement, Robinson explained that he was a laborer employed by Belize Maintenance Limited and that he resided on Dolphin Street. On Tuesday, February 23, he said, he left home on his beach cruiser bicycle and when he reached 88 Shopping Center on Central American Boulevard, he ran into a friend, “Fat Boy,” with whom he had a few beers until the store closed at 9:00 p.m.
After leaving his friend, Robinson reported, “I then rode down Central American Boulevard until I reached a Chinese shop at the corner of Cemetery Road and Euphrates Avenue. Then I got off my bicycle and stood right in front of the Chinese shop, which was closed at the time.”
Robinson explained that he stayed in front of the shop for about an hour. “I didn’t know the exact time it was then,” he had stated.
Robinson said he saw some people at a hot dog stand that he didn’t recognize.
“I then looked on the other side of Cemetery Road where a bar is situated and also saw some people outside. Also, I saw a dark-skinned male person wearing ¾ pants, black and grey and a black T-shirt, who I recognized as Jermaine Belgrave.”
Robinson said that the area was properly lit and that he recognized Belgrave, whom he had known for about four years after they had met at the Belize Central Prison when Robinson was incarcerated there in 2004.
“Jermaine Belgrave was staring in my direction for a long time. I don’t know why. He was looking very suspicious to me; therefore, to avoid any problem, I decided to move, so I slowly got on my bicycle and as I was doing that, still looking at Belgrave, I saw him started to move also. I saw him walk across the right side of Cemetery Road and was heading in the direction of Extra House. At this time I was on my bicycle and I rode into Euphrates Avenue, then took a left turn into Glynn Street and was heading to Albert Street to purchase food,” said Robinson.
Robinson said that while riding on Glenn Street, he saw a white vehicle coming, and thinking it was a police mobile, he decided to turn the bicycle around so that he would be traveling in the direction of the traffic.
“When passing in front of an alley which is between Extra House and the building that is for the homeless, I saw a dark-skinned male person about 5 feet 6 inches in height wearing a ¾ pants, black and gray, and a black T-shirt running towards me, and when he reached close to a lamppost that was lighted, he raised his right hand and that was when I saw he had an object in his hand, which I didn’t see clearly, and when he was six to seven feet away from me, I heard a loud noise which sounded like a gunshot,” Robinson had said in his statement.
He had further recounted, “I panicked and tried to ride faster, but couldn’t do so. I felt very weak. I then started to bleed. It was then I noticed or realized that I had been shot. I then heard two more gunshots, then I dropped to the ground with my bicycle. I must mention that the person who shot me was Jermaine Belgrave, as I had just seen him by the bar on Cemetery Road …. When I dropped to the ground, moments later I went unconscious.”
In his testimony at the trial, Dr. Mario Estradabran, who had conducted the autopsy on Robinson’s body, told the court that Robinson died from septic shock due to lateral pneumonia. Dr. Estradabran also testified that Robinson was also suffering from malnutrition, which contributed to his death, and he also had bed sores.
Justice Lucas, however, found that the testimony of Robinson’s common-law wife, Janice Lynch, suggested that Robinson would have lived for a long time if he had not become paralyzed and malnourished.
“There was no intervening event, in my view, which caused the death of Cleo Robinson,” Justice Lucas told the court, as he pored over the evidence before handing down his verdict.
Justice Lucas told the court that he found inconsistencies in Robinson’s statement, and that he (Robinson) gave his name to Sergeant Nelma Mortis at the scene of the shooting.
“I can’t understand how Cleo Robinson could have given his name to Sergeant Nelma Mortis and never told her who shot him right there on the scene,” Justice Lucas summarized.
“Woman sergeant Mortis could have asked him who shot him; the answer would still have been admissible under the rule,” Justice Lucas told the court.
In his defense, Belgrave gave an alibi testimony from the witness stand, telling the court that he was at home watching television when the shooting occurred. “I did not shoot anyone,” Belgrave emphatically testified.
Furthermore, he told the court that he did not know Cleo Robinson.
At the end of his judgment, Justice Lucas addressed Belgrave, who followed the cue from one of the court’s police and stood up in the prisoner’s dock: “I find you not guilty. You are free to go.”
In October 2013, Jermaine Belgrave and Jeffery Flowers were acquitted of attempted murder and aggravated assault by a nine-member jury in the Supreme Court of Justice Adolph Lucas.
That indictment came as a result of a shootout the two had with police on March 26, 2010, when PC Harold Grinage and PC Alexis Banner were shot on Bagdad Street.
In that trial, Belgrave was represented by attorney Ellis Arnold, S.C. In his defense, Belgrave gave a witness alibi telling the court that he was at a football game when the shooting occurred.
In December 2009, Belgrave was shot in his shoulder while he was standing at the corner of Orange and West Streets and someone opened fire from inside a vehicle that was passing.
Police later charged Michael “Yellow” Henry for the shooting.