General — 18 July 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Re-trial of 3 men accused of 2012 murder of ex-BDF concludes

Justice Williams will rule Wednesday, July 18

BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 16, 2018– The second murder trial of three men ended today, Monday, and Supreme Court Justice Colin Williams, who heard the case sitting without a jury, has indicated that he will issue his ruling on Wednesday, July 18.

The three men, Tyrone Meighan, Brandon Baptist and Orel Leslie, were accused of the November 23, 2012 murder of James Noralez, an ex-Belize Defence Force soldier, whose body was found dumped near the junction of Fabers Road and the George Price Highway, riddled with bullets.

At the conclusion of the first trial in October 2015, the three accused were acquitted when then Supreme Court Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez, who also heard the evidence in the case sitting without a jury, ruled to accept a no-case-to-answer submission from the men’s attorneys.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, however, appealed the acquittal and was able to convince the Court of Appeal to quash the acquittal and order a retrial of the accused.

After the Court of Appeal’s decision to order a new trial, Meighan, Baptist and Leslie were remanded to the Belize Central Prison to await their new trial.

While they were waiting for the new trial, Meighan and Leslie applied for bail from the Supreme Court and were successful when they appeared before Justice Denis Hanomansingh, who released both of them on bail of $25,000, but on the first night of tasting freedom, Leslie violated the condition of his bail and was again remanded to prison.

Baptist, on the other hand, is awaiting trial for a separate murder that he has been accused of committing.

At the opening of the trial during the first week of last month, the key prosecution witness had failed to appear and a bench warrant had to be issued for him. The witness, Aaron Paquil, eventually took the witness stand and testified.

The prosecution’s evidence, which was led by Senior Crown Counsel Sheiniza Smith, however, was purely circumstantial. There was no eyewitness to the murder, and the murder weapon, a .9mm pistol, was never recovered.

Therefore, there was no compelling forensic evidence for the court to consider, linking the accused men to the murder.

The prosecution’s case is relying on the testimony of Paquil, who was grilled during cross-examination into admitting that he has been charged for a number of offences. He was never convicted, however.

 Noralez was shot a total of 14 times, as police forensic pathologist Dr. Mario Estradabran testified at the trial. He had one bullet wound in the left side of his neck; three bullet wounds in the left side of the chest; four in the upper shoulder; one under the left armpit; one in the left upper arm; one in the left side of the chin; one in the right side of the eye; one in the left side of his upper back; and one in the back of his head.

Tyrone Meighan is being defended by attorney Anthony Sylvestre, while attorney Bryan Neal is defending Brandon Baptist, and attorney Ellis Arnold, S.C., is defending Orel Leslie.

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Deshawn Swasey

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