BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan 22, 2015–The second trial of two men who had been indicted for a gruesome murder in 2009 ended tonight in the Supreme Court of Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez, when a jury of nine women and three men returned to the courtroom to announce their verdict.
After deliberating for over five hours, the jury reached a unanimous verdict in respect of the first accused, Cordel Flores, 26, for an acquittal, but all 12 jurors were unable to agree on a verdict for the second accused, Warren Lewis, 23. Eleven of the jurors found Lewis guilty, but one did not agree, resulting in a hung jury.
Justice Gonzalez told Cordel Flores that he was cleared of the murder indictment and was a free man. Flores quickly exited the prisoner’s dock, leaving Warren Lewis standing, as Gonzalez explained to him that the Director of Public Prosecution may wish to indict him for the murder, and until then, he has to return to the Belize Central Prison to await a possible new indictment and a consequent new trial.
The two men were accused of the August 19, 2009 murder of Alberto Allen, 18, who was shot in the lower back, his throat cut and a piece of stick pushed in his mouth.
Allen’s body was then dumped on a feeder road around Mile 4 on the then-named Western Highway.
A routine stop of a Toyota Corolla car at a police checkpoint in the Port Loyola area led to the arrest of Flores and Lewis.
Lewis gave police a caution statement admitting that he had killed Allen after he had taken police to where Allen’s body was dumped.
That caution statement was the subject of a very lengthy legal wrangling between Crown Counsel Sheiniza Smith, who led the prosecution’s evidence, and Lewis’ defense attorney, Oscar Selgado.
Lewis’ caution statement was eventually admitted into the prosecution’s evidence against him.
Gonzalez, in his summary of the evidence for the jury, made reference to parts of Lewis’ statement to police in which he admitted to more than one police officer that he was the one who had killed Allen and then dumped his body.
According to the evidence in court, Lewis told ASP Grinage, “I killed Alberto and dumped his body by the dump.”
When he was taking police to where he had dumped Allen’s body, Lewis reportedly told Sergeant Allison McLaughlin, “All I have to say is da me kill the man.”
Lewis told another policeman, Inspector Palomo, “I shot him and cut his throat; his body is by the dump site.”
Lewis, however, did not sign the confession statement, and later claimed that police had beaten him and that is why he gave them the statement.
Twelve witnesses testified for the prosecution.
In his defense, Lewis gave a statement from the dock and told the court that Palomo had beaten him in order to get the statement from him. Lewis also told the court that he was not told anything about his constitutional rights.
Following the verdict, Selgado told Amandala that he is “very satisfied that Warren Lewis had a fair trial.”
“I am satisfied that the defense was able to cause serious doubts in the prosecution’s case. The case was so tenuous, after the defense cross-examined the prosecution’s main witnesses. The jury, having considered all the evidence, was not satisfied that the prosecution had established its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Selgado said that if the DPP brings a new indictment against Lewis, he is prepared to defend him again, “Because I have a good understanding of the case.”
Cordel Flores was defended by attorney Alifa Elrington-Hyde, who told Amandala after her client’s acquittal that the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence against her client to carry the charge of murder.
“It was always my belief that this matter should never have passed preliminary inquiry at the Magistrate’s Court,” Elrington-Hyde said, noting, “there was not enough evidence to support a case for murder.”
“The only evidence that the prosecution had against my client is that he was found in a vehicle along with someone who is alleged to have confessed to killing Alberto Allen. They found blood on his fingers and the blood was consistent with Alberto Allen,” Elrington-Hyde said. “There was nothing there to connect Cordel Flores to the murder of Alberto Allen,” she went on to state.
In his dock statement, Flores told the court that he got a ride from Lewis and that he did not kill Alberto Allen.
In March, 2013, Flores and Lewis were on trial for Allen’s murder, but Justice Gonzalez had to halt the trial and dismissed the jury after the court learned that a member of the jury had made a prejudicial remark about the case.
This second trial began on November 3, 2014.