Crime — 05 November 2013 — by Albert J. Ciego
Life sentence for woman convicted of murder set aside; new trial

The conviction and life sentence handed down to Kim Brannon, 43, by the Supreme Court, after she was found guilty of the death of her common-law husband, Anthony “ Antics “ Herrera, 32, was overturned today by the Belize Court of Appeal.

A retrial was ordered, the life sentence squashed, and the conviction set aside.

After the retrial was ordered, Brannon was returned to her cell at the Belize Central Prison, where she will await her new trial.

The Appeals Court upheld the appeal of Brannon on the grounds that the trial judge failed to properly direct the jury with regard to a confession statement that Brannon gave to the police. The judge ought to have told the jury that it should consider whether the statement was voluntarily given, and if it was true.

In the appeal, Brannon was represented by attorney Anthony Sylvester, while the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl Lyn Vidal, represented the respondent.

Brannon was convicted on November 15, 2011, and was sentenced on December 2, 2011.

Police reports were that in the early morning of December 8, 2008, Herrera was sleeping in his bed in his home in Hattieville when his common-law wife, Brannon, took a machete and chopped him on the right side of the neck. According to police, Brannon waited for five hours before going to a relative to seek help, claiming that two men went into the house and chopped Herrera.

Police said that the story was too strange, and said that under questioning, Brannon admitted that she was the one who chopped Herrera. Police said that she cooperated with the investigation, and led them to their house, where she handed over a blood-stained machete, which she had hidden in the bathroom.

Police reported that she told them that she did it because she was the victim of sustained physical abuse by Herrera, and she chopped him after an argument, because she was tired of his unwanted sexual advances on her. She said that he forced her regularly to provide anal sex to him, which she despised.

In the December 2011 trial, however, Brannon contradicted her confession statement and reverted to her original story, saying that Herrera was killed by two men who came to her house. She said she heard a knock on the back door and when she opened it, she was pushed in the chest and two men entered. She said they chopped Herrera and left with a bag of cannabis.

The jury of 6 women and 6 men didn’t believe the story, and after about four and a half hours of deliberation, they arrived at a verdict of guilty of murder.

The Crown, represented by Crown Counsel Kaysha Grant, was not seeking the death penalty, and the laws of Belize mandate a sentence of life imprisonment in such circumstances, which Justice Lord handed down.

Defense attorney Carlo Mason at the time recorded in court his formal intention to appeal the sentence at the Court of Appeal, which was done within 21 days of the conviction.

Police say that Kim Brannon was previously charged with murder under the name Kimberly McLaughlin in May 2006, in Orange Walk Town. Police said that she went to Catt’s Pool Room on Lover’s Lane in Orange Walk, broke down a room door and attacked her former boyfriend, Paul Gonzalez, and his new girlfriend, Ruby Mendez, stabbing them both. Paul Gonzalez died, but Mendez survived the attack.

A conviction could not be secured in the case against her at trial, and Brannon was freed of that murder charge against her.

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