Crime — 04 April 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks
Retrial date set for Viola Pook

Viola Pook appeared before Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas this morning and he has set May 20 as the date for the commencement of her retrial for the murder of her common-law husband Orlando Vasquez.

At the Court of Appeal session last month, the Appeal Justices ruled that the murder conviction of Viola Pook, 56, was unfair and they overturned that conviction, quashed her life sentence and ordered a new Supreme Court trial.

On December 31, 2008, Vasquez, 48, Pook’s common-law husband of 23 years, was set on fire in their Rancho Dolores, Belize District home. He died a few days later from the over 70 percent burns to his body.

Pook was arrested, indicted and convicted for his murder and sentenced to life in prison in July 2011.

But today she told court reporters that she is happy that she is going to get a new trial.

Pook’s conviction was overturned because the Appeal Court judges found that there was an error in the first trial when the trial judge allowed a prejudicial statement that Pook made to a police officer, who did not inform her of her constitutional rights when he questioned her at her home.

When Pook was initially questioned by police on December 31, 2008, the day police found Vasquez suffering burns to most of his body inside their Rancho Dolores home, she allegedly remarked to the officer, “da me catch him fire.”

Following the Court of Appeal’s ruling, attorney Simeon Sampson, who had argued Pook’s appeal, told reporters that the prosecution did not have any evidence against Pook, and that the statement she gave to the officer during the police’s preliminary investigation of Vasquez’s burnt condition was the only piece of evidence linking her to the murder.

Her first trial was heard before Supreme Court Justice Herbert Lord.

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